Despite finishing a whopping six places and 16 points above Everton in the Premier League last season, Southampton are behind the Toffees, who spirited away boss Ronald Koeman from the south coast at the start of the summer, in bwin’s market to finish next term in the top four.
After the madness of 2015/16, when Leicester and Tottenham gatecrashed the Champions League promised land with 1st and 3rd, backing Saints at 12/1 to achieve such a feat in new gaffer Claude Puel’s first campaign in charge makes sense.
The omens look fantastic, with Southampton improving on their league position every year since 2009/10, finishing sixth last season, yet behind 11th placed Everton (10/3) for another top-six berth at 7/2.
All this despite a tumultuous time in the Premier League since regaining top-flight status four years ago, with Nigel Adkins shooed out the door, Mauricio Pochettino poached by Spurs and now Everton nabbing Koeman.
They’ve sold stars Sadio Mane, Graziano Pelle and Victor Wanyama this summer, but Morgan Schneiderlin, Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Calum Chambers, Nathaniel Clyne and Dejan Lovren have all left St Mary’s for supposedly greener pastures over the past three years, yet the Saints march on.
Puel finished fourth in Ligue 1 with lowly Nice last term, and he’ll clearly have plenty of money to play around with this summer, while a couple of shrewd looking signings already in the bag.
Nathan Redmond seems astute at £10m considering the flood of cash swirling round the English top flight, and £13m midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg comes with a recommendation from his former Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola.
England full-back Ryan Bertrand has signed a new contract, while Jordy Clasie is sure to improve after coping well during his first term as Schneiderlin’s replacement.
Koeman may have more money to spend than most thanks to new Everton owner Farhad Moshiri’s billions, but with major surgery needed on the squad and two seasons out of the Premier League top ten, they look relatively unready to make such a big leap at the same 12/1 odds.