Southampton Q&A: Challenges facing Saints after securing Premier League return

A look at what challenges lie ahead for the Saints as they plan for life back in the top flight

Jim van Wijk
Sunday 26 May 2024 17:15
Southampton manager Russell Martin is expected to face a battle to keep the club up next season (David Davies/PA)
Southampton manager Russell Martin is expected to face a battle to keep the club up next season (David Davies/PA) (PA Wire)

Southampton beat Leeds in the Championship play-off final at Wembley to secure promotion back to the Premier League.

Russell Martin’s side, who had finished fourth in the table, can now start planning for life back in the top flight after just one season away.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the key questions ahead for the club.

So, what now?

Enjoy the moment – at least until after the victory parade. Once the Wembley merchandise has all been packed away, there will be little time to lose as the Saints play catch-up on their summer transfer plans having landed an estimated £140million promotion windfall. Director of football Rasmus Ankersen and Martin are likely to already have some preferred targets in mind – but getting their business done ahead of pre-season training could be a tough ask.

Does the squad need a complete overhaul?

Probably not, but Martin will certainly need to improve the spine of the team for the step up in quality of opposition. Striker Adam Armstrong provided plenty of goals to fire Saints to promotion, but can the former Blackburn man deliver in the Premier League? Scotland forward Che Adams is out of contract in the summer, and has already been linked with a move to Wolves. There could be a bid to get versatile midfielder Flynn Downes on a permanent switch after he impressed during his loan spell from West Ham. Sparta Prague defender Martin Vitik and Nantes winger Stredair Appuah are also reported targets as Saints scour the market ahead of the transfer deadline on August 30.

Is Martin the right man for the job?

It was not all plain sailing for Martin, 38, after his protracted switch from Swansea last summer. A run of four straight defeats in September left plenty of Saints fans wondering if the club’s faith had been misplaced. However, slowly but surely, former Norwich and Scotland defender Martin installed his possession-based game into the squad. A club-record 25-game unbeaten run in all competitions followed to get Southampton’s promotion push back on track. Tougher challenges await, but Martin, whose first managerial job came at MK Dons, will back himself to meet them all head on.

So should Saints fans expect anything other than a fight for survival?

Maybe not. Although all three promoted clubs last season went straight back down, recent history has shown that fate is not always a foregone conclusion, with Bournemouth, Brighton, Brentford and Nottingham Forest all teams to have beaten the odds to stay up. Southampton won 15 games at St Mary’s in the regular Championship campaign, but even die-hard season ticket holders will not expect such home comforts when back in the top flight. After sitting through 12 miserable Premier League home defeats in the 2022/23 campaign – with just two wins at St Mary’s – en route to finishing bottom of the table, fans will be hoping things can only get better this time around.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in