A look back at Southampton’s season in 2012/13.
A second-place finish in the Championship in 2011/12 made it two successive promotions for Southampton, whose fans were in dreamland as they secured a long-awaited return to the Premier League after a seven-year absence.
Manager Nigel Adkins had a decent transfer window, bringing in promising striker Jay Rodriguez from Burnley, experienced midfielder Steven Davis from Rangers, Nathaniel Clyne on a free from Crystal Palace and most exciting of all a deal for Gaston Ramirez from Bologna, who had been linked with several top clubs around Europe.
Things did not start well though, as the club faced some extremely harsh opening fixtures and lost their opening four games. First they went to champions Manchester City and did well to take a shock 2-1 lead at the Etihad Stadium, though they were beaten 3-2 late on by Roberto Mancini’s side. Disappointingly, they then lost 2-0 at home to Wigan, though they gave Manchester United a real scare as they were again in front only to lose the lead in another 3-2 defeat. They were then thrashed 6-1 by Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium and looked like early favourites for the drop.
They won their first game of the season with an excellent display against Aston Villa, where from 1-0 down at half time they turned things around to win with a convincing 4-1 scoreline. Rickie Lambert was looking good in front of goal, showing the ability to take his scoring form from the lower leagues to the top flight.
They were still conceding too many goals though, and continued to struggle, losing four and drawing two of their next six games, including a 4-1 thumping by West Ham. They were also shocked in the Capital One Cup, losing 3-0 to Championship side Leeds. Things picked up when they won two games on the bounce with a 3-1 away win at fellow-strugglers Queens Park Rangers and a 2-0 home win over Newcastle.
They improved slightly but continued to be inconsistent, losing close games against Liverpool and Sunderland, with a win and a draw against Reading and Fulham respectively sandwiched in-between. They then let a 3-1 lead slip away to Stoke to draw 3-3 as they were victims of a last-minute wonder-goal from Stoke striker Cameron Jerome. They were more impressive in their next game as they earned a credible 1-1 draw with Arsenal, though they scored their third own-goal of the season for the Gunners after Guilherme Do Prado put through his own net to equalise for the visitors.
They were dumped out of the FA Cup in the third round with a poor display as they lost 5-1 to Chelsea at St Mary’s, despite Rodriguez giving the Saints the lead. New Chelsea signing Demba Ba was in fine form with two goals and the cup holders eventually reached the semi-finals of the competition, so Southampton could at least know they were beaten by a quality side, and they were arguably more keen to focus on Premier League survival anyway.
They won 1-0 at Aston Villa in their next game with a Rickie Lambert penalty, and were reunited with Chelsea quickly, staging an impressive comeback from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at Stamford Bridge. Inexplicably, Nigel Adkins was sacked just days after this fine result, with the Southampton board keen to appoint Argentine Mauricio Pochettino as their new manager. This sacking of a manager that had helped them to two consecutive promotions and to some good displays in the Preimer League was met with shock by the fans and the media, though Pochettino soon won everyone over as he carried on Adkins’ fine work.
The Saints continued to play good football, and found more of a cutting edge as they hit some of their best form of the season. They were unfortunate to lose 2-1 against Manchester United, again providing a scare for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side by taking the lead, and they produced a fine display to beat reigning champions Manchester City 3-1 at St Mary’s.
They followed that up with two disappointing defeats to Newcastle and QPR, though they then went six games unbeaten and only lost two more games all season. This fine streak included back-to-back home wins against Liverpool and Chelsea, followed by a 2-0 away win at Reading. They were disappointing in a 3-0 home defeat to West Brom, where they finished with nine men, and were then the victims of a late wonder-goal from former star Gareth Bale, who subjected them to a 1-0 defeat to Tottenham at White Hart Lane.
They finished with two draws against Sunderland and Stoke, but safety was already assured and they finished in a perfectly respectable 14th place.
Best player: Rickie Lambert
Alongside Frank Lampard, Lambert was the leading English goal scorer in the Premier League this season, and unfortunate not to have earned a call-up to the England squad with his fine all-round displays in Southampton’s attack-minded and technical passing game. He netted a variety of goals, from tap-ins to headers to free-kicks against the league’s big sides and generally showed that despite a career spent in the lower leagues, he is a top Premier League performer. Special mention should also go to Luke Shaw, as the 17-year-old left-back played his first season in the Saints’ first team and more-than looked the part, attracting interest from the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea this summer.
Worst player: Artur Boruc
The Polish goalkeeper did not look like a very capable number one, which perhaps explains why he was often rotated with Kelvin Davies and Paulo Gazzaniga, leading to the conclusion that a new shot-stopper will be a priority in this summer’s transfer window.
Final grade: C
Basically as good as it gets for a newly-promoted side. Although Swansea and Norwich wowed us with their adjustment to Premier League football last year, the priority for teams coming up is not go straight back down again, which Southampton managed fairly comfortably, playing some nice football along the way and some fine displays and victories against the big boys of the division. With their talented new manager, there should be plenty more to look forward to next season.