In classic calamity fashion, Southampton ended a forgettable 2021/22 season in the same way they had a year before: with a wipe of their brow, a prayer and a deep sigh of relief that they had done enough to stay up despite another patch of absymal form.

It seems to happen every year and it happened again last year. The Saints built up some steam around January and all but sealed their place in the Premier League for the next campaign, and then fizzled out without a trace into a mediocre 15th place finish.

Could it be different this year? With a transfer window to genuinely be galvanised by, Southampton’s squad is now young and hungry, and they will be keen to return to the upper ends of the Premier League table - looking to go elbow to elbow and challenge for a space in a European competition once again.


Southampton used to operate on a sell-to-buy system, but those days are firmly in the past under the new ownership of Sport Republic. They’ve spent a net of around £50million this window so far with a stunning two permanent outgoings - the end-of-contract departures of long-serving journeymen Shane Long and Fraser Forster.

In terms of arrivals, goalkeeper Mateusz Lis from Atlay SK and centre-back Armel Bella-Kotchap from VfL Bochum were two of the first to arrive. Gazin Bazunu from Manchester City then came after being named Portsmouth Player of the Season in a loan spell there last year. Teammate Romeo Lavia followed Bazunu from Manchester to the south coast, and teenage forward Sekou Mara joined from Bordeaux in an £11milion transfer that may have saved the French club from bankruptcy. Nigerian forward Joe Aribo also arrived from north of the border, moving from Rangers to round off Southampton’s transfer business so far.


Fiery manager Ralph Hasenhuttl begins his fifth season in the hotseat, the fourth longest serving boss in the Premier League right now. The passionate Austrian is a spoonful of Marmite in the mouths of the Saints support: some fans love the energy he brings to the touchline whereas other fans beg to see him sent home each and every week on social media.

His time at Southampton has been similarly divided. The Saints have reached semi-finals and have had some amazing moments under his rollercoaster of a reign, but they’ve also suffered some of the lowest moments of both club and Premier League history. The two 9-0s are tied for the biggest Premier League defeat, and a period of four wins in 27 Premier League games in 2021 was the worst recorded run of form in the English top division.

With that being said, Hasenhuttl is typically positive; both in playstyle and in personality. He turns a fresh page this season with an exciting young squad, and both the manager and the wonderkids will be looking to write a new chapter into the history books - hopefully one that doesn’t involve conceding double figures this time.

Strongest Starting XI

Gavin Bazunu

Kyle Walker-Peters, Mohammed Salisu, Armel Bella-Kotchap, Tino Livramento

Stuart Armstrong, Romeo Lavia, James Ward-Prowse, Joe Aribo

Che Adams, Adam Armstrong

Predicting Southampton’s opening eleven is hard, as they’ve bounced between two very different formations in pre-season (as talked about later on). Aribo could play on the right wing or up front, and Lavia or Bella-Kotchap could be too green to play the first game of the season. They will definitely be without Livramento who is out for the rest of the calendar year.


Talking Points

Can a new formation re-invigorate Southampton?

The Saints are a side who have become synonymous with substantial batterings. The number that comes between eight and ten doesn't even need to be mentioned - heavy losses to Chelsea, (other teams) proved how leaky they can be. A switch from 4-2-2-2 to a 3-5-2 formation in pre-season has seen them steady the ship. Southampton look much more comfortable behind the ball now, and a defensively-stronger pre-season will be like Saints Brass music to Saints fans’ ears, and they may finally escape the 9-0s being mentioned on commentary if they can concede less goals this season.

However, the flipside now is that Southampton have not generated enough goals in pre-season. They only scored three in five games and questions will be asked of strikers like Che Adams and Adam Armstrong. Ward-Prowse was the highest scorer last season, scoring 10 goals with only two coming from open play. Hasenhuttl said another striker should be coming in, but the question remains right now: can the Saints score enough goals to keep their heads afloat in the Premier League?

How much time does Hasenhuttl have left?

New Saints owners Sport Republic made it clear that Southampton’s form at the tailend of last season was entirely unacceptable, and gave Hasenhuttl one last lifeline by gutting the backroom staff and allowing the Austrian to bring in his own set of coaches. While not explicitly stated, this is Hasenhuttl’s final ultimatum. Should Southampton continue where they left off and have a poor start to the season, Sport Republic are likely to realise that the problem does not lie within the backroom staff, but within the head coach himself.

Hasenhuttl has been lucky to stay in the job this long and Southampton have been rewarded at times for their loyalty, as the ex-Leipzig manager has brought some very memorable moments during his tenure as coach so far. However, he now lives on borrowed time - don’t be surprised to see him gone by the World Cup if the Saints cannot turn their fortune around this campaign.

Is there enough experience in this Southampton side?

Southampton have had a very vibrant transfer window, bringing in a wealth of exciting young talent. However, this has now become a very inexperienced side on paper - the average age of their six new signings is 21. None of these players have played in the Premier League before. Romeo Lavia has never made a senior appearance. Gavin Bazunu was playing in League One last season and makes a very big jump up to the top division this season.

This has never stopped Hasenhuttl before - Livramento was a stalwart last season and had never played a first team game before his Saints debut - but questions need to be asked about discipline and calmness, especially in the backline. Southampton may not have the experience needed to ease the nerves of their younger players. Sport Republic have taken a big gamble in going so young and have almost put all of their eggs in one basket with this transfer strategy, so it is vital for these wonderkids to come big for Southampton if they want to stay up this season.

Predicted Finish

The only thing that seems consistent about Southampton is their inconsistency, and their constant flip-flopping of form makes it almost impossible to predict where they’ll end up finishing in the Premier League this season. Whenever they look like they sit on the brink of a truly great season, they seem to end up free-falling down the table - or vice-versa when they start a campaign poorly.

With that being said, Southampton’s transfer business so far has been heavily underrated. Spending so much money without any outgoings is unheard of for the Saints, and as long as they hold onto key players like Ward-Prowse when the window slams shut, they should stay up comfortably. That will be the goal for Sports Republic this season: stay up, nurture the new young talent and mould the south coast in their image in years to come.

There are definitely three teams worse than Southampton on paper this season. Expect to see them rise up the table around January time, just to burn out around the end of the season for a tame lower mid-table finish.

Predicted finish - 14th