Preparing for the Premier League

Daily Echo: Preparing for the Premier League Preparing for the Premier League

On the cusp of a return to the top table, I think most people in football could forgive Saints fans for sporting rather large smiles.

Bearing in mind three years ago we were on -10 points and almost 50 positions below the Premier League , it's been a remarkable rise back to the top of the domestic game.

In the seven years since we've been away though, a lot has changed in the Premier League.

Billionaires are now the norm while Stoke and Wigan are established top-flight teams. This is how Marty McFly must have felt when he first saw a hoverboard .

But unlike him, we're here without the aid of weapons grade plutonium and a car with suspect rust protection - so what does our future hold if not trainers that do themselves up?

For a start, with two weeks to go until the close of the transfer window, the squad looks far from the finished article. Nigel Adkins seems to cut a frustrated figure as he tries to get in the pace necessary to make his new system a success.

The additions made so far - Jay Rodriguez , Nathaniel Clyne, Steven Davis and Paolo Gazzaniga - look promising. Rodriguez and Clyne in particular seem to be bubbling with talent and with time very much on their side, so there is a lot of room for further improvement.

Of course, it's hard to know how Adkins will juggle the demands of the striking talent in his ranks and how Rodriguez - and Tadanari Lee - will fit in alongside Lambert and Sharp who had forged a very potent partnership towards the end of last season. A plethora of talented strikers is not a headache the manager will mind having.

It's midfield where many of the question marks remain, however. Lallana is guaranteed a starting spot - you don't hide a player like that away - and the new formation Adkins has been trying looks as if it is trying to get the 24-year-old even more involved than he has been.

When Alan Ball took over as Saints manager, he pulled Matt Le Tissier into the middle and told the rest of the team to get the ball to him because 'he can do things'. Now, we want to share that pressure around but in an attacking sense it wouldn't be surprising to see Lallana dropping off in a central role far more often than he was able to do on the left wing.

That does however still leave the question of width and pace. Some of the names Saints have been linked to in this position have been mind boggling - Theo Walcott for example - but other less blockbusting names, such as Matt Jarvis look as if they could provide some of what Adkins is looking for.

The team will not be enjoying the same amount of pressure and possession high up the pitch as the players have become accustomed to in recent years, so that injection of pace is vital to create counter-attacking opportunities. Without it, the pool of talent upfront may become redundant.

Defensively, the cupboard still looks rather bare. Two more centre-halves would be a most welcome addition to add both nous and depth to the squad.

Predicting the future right now is a rather futile thing - there are plenty of variables which could change before the squad is finalised and make a huge difference to how the team is likely to fare in the Premier League.

That said, I'm still going to have a pop. If Saints were to face the season with the players currently at Adkins' disposal, a 16th place finish would be about right. Without ever being able to completely pull away, there are other teams I expect to struggle more than Saints. However, with a bit of pace and steel added, there seems plenty of reasons why Adkins can't guide Saints to a mid-table finish.

The Premier League, for all its 'glamour and gloss', will be a far more sobering experience than the Championship for Southampton - but that's no reason to be fearful of it. The foundations are there - Adkins just needs to be allowed to build what he wants on them.

Comments (2)

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1:53pm Tue 14 Aug 12

davedoggy says...

wheres pompey gaz gone
wheres pompey gaz gone davedoggy

5:34pm Tue 28 Aug 12

Scrutinizer says...

Get rid of this cr@p awful red kit, and bring back our RED AND WHITE STRIPES!
Get rid of this cr@p awful red kit, and bring back our RED AND WHITE STRIPES! Scrutinizer

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