SOCCER - A.Klagenfurt vs Southampton, test match KLAGENFURT,AUSTRIA,18.JUL.22 - SOCCER - ADMIRAL Bundesliga, Premier League, SK Austria Klagenfurt vs FC Southampton, test match. Image shows a ball. PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxAUTxSUIxSWE GEPAxpictures/xFlorianxMori

Premier League comeback

Ever since their return to the Premier League in 2012, Southampton FC acclimatised how any side with top-flight aspirations would have dreamed of. During their first season, they cemented themselves back amongst England’s elite with a 14th placed finish.

The top goal scorer during the 2012/13 campaign was striker Rickie Lambert, who notched 15 which meant he was the clubs top scorer for a fourth consecutive season. The likes of Adam Lallana really blossomed during his first Premier League campaign, chipping in with vital goals and assists to help the Saints throughout the season.

The following year, Mauricio Pochettino had his first full season at the club after taking over in early 2013. The Argentine proved to be a massive hit down on the south coast after he carefully nurtured and developed a number of young players, including Luke Shaw and James Ward-Prowse.

After leading the Saints to 8th position, Pochettino left for Tottenham Hotspur and Ronald Koeman took the hot seat and carried on the good work left in place. Despite losing a number of key players, Southampton found suitable replacements owing to their strong recruitment policy and finished 7th and 6th under Koeman.

It was Southampton’s strong emphasis on youth that ultimately lead to their early successes since their Premier League return, with much praise going towards the clubs owners and Les Reed, who was responsible for player development.

Gradual slide

A brilliant mix of homegrown players and an exciting brand of signings gave the Saints one of the strongest sides outside the top six, but things weren’t always going to remain cheery for too long. Koeman left for Everton in the summer of 2016 and Claude Puel was named as his successor.

The Frenchman was never able to get the supporters on side, despite leading the club to eighth and taking them to the League Cup final in 2017. At this stage, the quality of signings were drying up as Southampton continued to lose more of their best players.

Puel was sacked in the summer of 2017 despite guiding them to another top-half finish, and Mauricio Pellegrino was his replacement. Southampton scored their lowest total and conceded the most since their return in 2012 under Puel that season and the fan base weren’t happy to tolerate a lethargic style of play.

But Pellegrino wasn’t able to stop the Saints from sliding down the table. It almost didn’t feel unexpected, in spite of their previous five seasons. There appeared to be an air of discontent surrounding the club when the Gao family took over in 2017.

Things on the pitch weren’t able to improve and Mark Hughes was hired to save Southampton from the drop. A win away at Swansea City late last season ensured Hughes had rescued the south coast side but he lost his job in December 2018, after winning just one of Southampton’s opening 16 games.

Now, Ralph Hasenhuttl is tasked with trying to maintain Southampton’s Premier League status. The newly appointed manager got off to a great start before Christmas, beating Arsenal and Huddersfield Town before losing to Manchester City.

It really has been a case of what goes up, must come down for Southampton over the course of the last six years. From the highs of producing a crop of brilliant players, selling them on for a large profit and maintaining the quality of the squad with suitable replacements, to the lows of losing all perspective and seeing the club go in an alternate direction.

Between now and the end of the season, the Saints will need to do everything within their power to survive in the Premier League. They are currently just outside the relegation zone ahead of their trip to Chelsea on Wednesday night, whereby they’ll do magnificently to get a result.

The Saints are still one of the favourites for the drop, and you can check out all the latest Premier League markets here: