Three ways to back your team: Southampton
Pellegrino knows time is a luxury he won’t have
It just goes to show the ambition at St Mary’s – they finished eighth in the Premier League and reached the final of the League Cup, but considered it a poor season. Southampton sacked manager Claude Puel in the summer, and replaced him with Argentine Mauricio Pellegrino.
The incoming gaffer will know just what is expected of him this year. Just like every other manager hired at this level, there’s no time set aside for settling in – he must spend wisely over the summer and will be judged on results from the start. Is there any hope for Southampton fans this season? We look at three ways to support them in the betting.
Pellegrino building from the back
The bulk of business done in the early part of the summer transfer window has seen players leave St Mary’s. Bosses are keen to send a number of the club’s younger boys out on loan, while cutting out the deadwood, selling those who just didn’t perform under Puel. Pellegrino’s first move was to tighten up a defence that leaked 48 goals in 38 league games last term, signing Polish defender Jan Bednarek from Lech Poznan for £5m. A great start, and fans will be hoping they’ve uncovered a gem in the Poland U21 star, but they know there must be bigger names in the pipeline. Southampton, from the dressing room right through to the stands, need a marquee signing to boost confidence in the coming months. There’s plenty of quality in the squad already, but they need to be spurred on. It’s still very early, but what we’ve seen in the transfer window so far won’t inspire punters to rush out and invest heavily in The Saints for success. A top-six finish is 5/1, but a top-half finish seems more likely at 8/15. One for season-long accas, or big-hitters.
Will they go one better?
Southampton famously reached the final of the League Cup last season, eventually losing out to Manchester United at Wembley in a 3-2 thriller. They seemed to have no luck that day – Gabbiadini got a double, but he really should’ve had a hat-trick, a goal cruelly disallowed that would’ve surely changed the direction of the match. The player, and everyone connected to the club, will still be hurting from that loss, and will be determined to put it right at the first time of asking. The fact they have not yet made wholesale changes means the current crop will know just what is ahead of them, and once settled under their new manager, can get right back down to business. Will they improve on February’s narrow defeat and win the League Cup in 2018? Our traders don’t think so, but if you do, there’s a massive 20/1 available at Coral and that’ll be difficult for fans to ignore. A share of neutrals will see that as worth an interest too.
Saints thrive in knockout football
Southampton have won the FA Cup only once throughout history, way back in 1976. They beat Manchester United to write their names in history, a single goal from Bobby Stokes deciding the match. They have, however, ended runner-up on three occasions, as recently as 2003, when sinking vs Arsenal in Cardiff, Robert Pires the match winner on that occasion. Despite a bit of a drought in this format over the last few years, they’re never a side that can be taken lightly in knockout football. Will Pellegrino lead them on a cup run? Coral’s football guys doubt it, and apart from a top-10 finish in the Premier League, they don’t expect too much else to shout about. If you disagree and make Southampton a side capable of winning the nation’s favourite competition, we’ll give you 25/1.