Runners-up to Reading in last term’s npower Championship by a single point, Nigel Adkins’ side are welcomed back to the Premier League after a seven-season absence, having mirrored the recent achievements of Norwich City by recording back-to-back promotions:
Their turnaround in fortunes is all the more remarkable for a club that went into administration in 2009 before being taken over by Italian banker Nicola Cortese and Swiss businessman Markus Liebherr. With Adkins installed in the hot seat in September 2010, their ascent has been eye-catching and, despite losing the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to Arsenal in the summer transfer window, the Saints were front runners from the opening day of the 2011/12 campaign and were never out of the top two positions all season.
CS = Cleansheets
A former professional goalkeeper with Tranmere, Wigan and Bangor, Adkins was given his first managerial job with the latter and led them to a couple of title wins in the League of Wales. From there he moved to Scunthorpe, initially as a physiotherapist, before being installed as manager in 2006. Having established the club in the Championship over his four years in charge, Adkins then dropped down a division by accepting the role of Southampton boss in 2010.
Adkins’s preferred style of play is an attack-minded 4-4-2 system that places an emphasis on his side’s expansive passing game. The results have seen the Saints rack up the goals, finding the net 85 and 86 times respectively over the two seasons he has been in charge at St Mary’s, with their home form, in particular, crucial to their success. The man in charge is keen to remain true to his ethos, admitting after his side clinched promotion:
This is a Premier League club, and we’ve got to give ourselves an opportunity to do well in that division. That will include playing passing football, like we’ve done over the past two seasons. The ball’s king, whoever has possession is king, and if we can do that and score goals, we have an opportunity [to stay up]
THE FANTASY POTENTIAL
Listed below are the main men from Southampton’s successful promotion campaign, with only those players who made 10 or more starts coming into consideration in our analysis.
Kelvin Davis (45 starts) Nailed-on between the posts, he has missed a single game over the last two seasons under Adkins. Chalked up 18 clean sheets last term but is unlikely to receive much Fantasy interest, with better attacking alternatives in the Saints back-four ahead of him.
Jose Fonte (42 starts. 1 goal, 3 assists) Signed from Crystal Palace in the January 2010 transfer window, he has proven to be a crucial component of the Saints’ backline. A no-nonsense centre-half who is also comfortable on the ball, Fonte has become a firm fans’ favourite with his displays at the back.
Daniel Fox (37 starts, 4 sub apps. 9 assists) A potent source of creativity, the left-back also shares corner-kick duties with Adam Lallana and is resultantly one to watch out for. Rarely threatens from a goalscoring perspective but his resilience at the back could see him prosper in the EA Sports Player Performance Index.
Adam Lallana (41 starts. 11 goals, 10 assists) A product of the club’s highly-rated youth academy, the left winger’s creativity and eye for goal is crucial to his side’s attacking forays. With free-kicks and a share of corners in his locker, he hit double figures for goals and assists last term and, along with Rickie Lambert, was one of two Saints players to make the npower Championship team of the season.
Guly Do Prado (36 starts, 6 sub apps. 10 goals, 7 assists) Snapped up from Italian club Cesena in January 2011 after an initial loan deal proved highly successful. The Brazilian adds a touch of class to the Saints’ midfield and is equally adept in the centre or out wide – with 10 goals and seven assists, he could well fly under the Fantasy radar as managers look for the more obvious options like Lallana.
Rickie Lambert (42 starts. 27 goals, 14 assists) Has yet to play in the top-flight but, as Norwich’s Grant Holt demonstrated last time round, there is strong value to be found in the promoted forwards. Lambert’s incredible attacking returns and spot-kick duties are likely to see plenty Fantasy managers eye up the Saints forward as a cut-price proposition – he played a part in 41 (or 48%) of his side’s 85 goals, a clear indication of his importance to the cause.