Leicester are a big price at 12/5, but the most handsome of the lot are Southampton at 4/1, with the summer departures of Ronald Koeman, Sadio Mane, Victor Wanyama and Graziano Pelle perceived to weaken them considerably.
Nothing motivates a Saints dressing room better than being written off by everybody before a ball has been kicked though, and there are at least three reasons to believe that another top-six finish is obtainable at those appealing odds:
It’s getting better all the time
Southampton’s league position has improved not just two years in a row, not three, not four and not even five but on six separate occasions, from seventh in League One in 2009-10 to second in 2010-11 to second in the Championship in 2011-12.
Then their Premier League return closed in 14th place before ascents to eighth, then seventh and finally sixth in the recently concluded campaign. The pattern points to them not only sticking around in the top six but potentially climbing even higher.
They are managerial-change-proof…
Punters are forever claiming that a specific person or two are the secrets to Southampton’s success and that, when those individuals exit, that is when the club’s half-decade or so in the sun will end yet, no matter who they let go, they don’t merely survive, they come back even stronger.
That is most evident on the moments that they change manager. Getting rid of FL Trophy-winning boss Alan Pardew in 2010 was perceived to be rash, yet his successor Nigel Adkins achieved two promotions in two seasons.
His dismissal was criticised even more, only for Mauricio Pochettino to prove to be more effective and then, when it looked almost impossible for the Argentine’s contribution to be rivalled when he left for Tottenham, along came Ronald Koeman to beat his accolades twice.
So rather than panic over how they will cope without such an accomplished tactician now that the Dutchman has fled for Everton, they should have faith in six years of history helping them to eventually come out on top.
…and have chosen well anyway
The fact that new boss Claude Puel has never worked outside France shouldn’t concern anyone, especially given that Adkins had managed a single English side before delivering consecutive promotions and Pochettino’s lone dugout stint had ended in his sacking at Espanyol.
It is easy to detect similarities between the job that the 54-year-old performed in his latest role at Nice and the one that he will be expected to oversee at St Mary’s, finishing in fourth place twice in the space of his four campaigns in the south-east of France.
None of Mane, who fired a lowly three of his 11 league goals last term before March 20, Wanyama, who Saints won six of their nine league games without, and Pelle, who ended the season on the bench, were irreplaceable, while they bought well in Nathan Redmond and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.