There were a few speculative punters who thought that, in the wake of last summer’s fire sale at St Mary’s, Southampton were a good outside bet for Premier League relegation.
Those willing to stick their heads above the parapet 12 months on will be distinctly reduced in numbers after the Saints responded to the sale of integral figures Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren to finish seventh and, subsequently, qualify for the Europa League.
As a result, the price for Ronald Koeman’s men to be demoted this term has ballooned to a monster 40/1 ahead of the new season’s start.
But there’s a case to argue that the present day is an even better time to back the south coast club to go down.
The basis revolves around the potential second wave of wholesale changes that are about to be sparked at Southampton.
First-choice right-back Nathaniel Clyne, who started 35 top-tier matches last term, is on the verge of following the aforementioned trio of former teammates to Liverpool, a year on from when his natural successor, Calum Chambers, was sold to Arsenal.
As if the loss of a key defender wasn’t enough, midfield lynchpin Morgan Schneiderlin, the man who, for many, ensured the ship maintained a steady course despite all the off-field turmoil, is almost certain to leave too.
It’s anticipated Dutch schemer Jordy Clasie will come in to replace the Frenchman, while Cedric Soares has been drafted in from Sporting Lisbon to take Clyne’s spot in the side.
A state of constant upheaval is not conducive to building a successful football team; in fact, it tends to yield opposite results.
Neither Soares or Clasie have experience of playing top flight football in England, which attaches a strong element of risk to their signings, especially when they’re required to replace such key figures.
True, the same can be said of Dusan Tadic, Toby Alderweireld, Graziano Pelle and Sadio Mane, who all savoured strong debut seasons in the Premier League, but such a successful hit rate is rare in the extreme.
It stands to reason they won’t be as lucky this time around.
Another key factor behind Southampton’s fine 2014/15 was the performances of Fraser Forster.
Only four goalkeepers kept more clean sheets than his 11 and all of whom made more appearances than him.
After sustaining a knee injury against Burnley towards the end of the year, the England stopper will be sidelined for the bulk, if not all, of the coming edition.
Yet another factor that’s set to have a negative impact on results at St Mary’s is the regular excursions to obscure corners of the continent that participation in the Europa League entails.
Everton, Newcastle and Swansea have all flirted with the drop in recent seasons after slurping from the poisoned chalice on a Thursday night, so don’t miss out on that 40/1 while it’s hot.