Saints returned home from France on Sunday following a successful pre-season tour. Nigel Adkins' men won both of their fixtures and completed an extensive week of double training sessions. On Wednesday 18th July Etolie Carouge were dispatched 4-1. Saints apparently dominated from the off, but were 1-0 down at half-time. Adkins used a combination of a 4-1-4-1 and a 4-3-2-1 formation, with Guly and Jason Puncheon standing out as the best players in the first half. Eleven changes were made at the interval, as Saints threw more men forward. Youngster Luke Shaw impressed yet again, scoring the equaliser with his weaker right foot, a superb curling effort. Billy Sharp put himself into contention for a starting spot next season with a hatrick. James Ward-Prowse was also said to have had a decent game. He was the only player to feature for the entire 90 minutes
Saints 1st half team: Davis; Butterfield, Fonte, Hooiveld, Fox; Schneiderlin; Ward-Prowse, Lallana, Puncheon, Guly; Lambert
Saints 2nd half team: Forecast, Richardson, Stephens, Seaborne, Fox; Hammond; Ward-Prowse, Chambers, Puncheon (Chaplow 67), Shaw, Sharp
On Saturday Saints beat Ligue 1 outfit Evian 1-0. Jason Puncheon scored the only goal of the game on 35 minutes. Once again Puncheon was one of the stand out performers. The ups and downs of his Southampton career have been well documented, but there's no doubting he's still got the ability to make a difference. He proved at Blackpool he is capable of holding his own in the top flight. The four players promoted from the youth setup gave a good account of themselves yet again. Make no mistake they aren't in the squad just to make up the numbers. Luke Shaw looks to have overtaken Dan Harding in the pecking order for a spot at left back already, while Danny Fox will no doubt be looking very nervously over his shoulder. James Ward-Prowse has been given plenty of game time and has all the tools to make it as a top player very soon. Calum Chambers and Jack Stephens probably won't be expecting to start too many games next term, but have all the makings of future stars. In the same game, Paulo Gazzaniga and Nathaniel Clyne were handed their debuts. Clyne was said to be particularly impressive, playing in a more advanced role than he is accustomed to. He was involved in a number of attacking moves and showcased his blistering pace.
Saints 1st half team: Davis; Butterfield, Stephens, Hooiveld, Fox; Ward-Prowse, Schneiderlin, Lallana; Puncheon, Rodriguez; Lambert
Saints 2nd half team: Gazzaniga, Richardson, Fonte, Seaborne, Harding; Chambers, Hammond, Chaplow; Guly, Shaw, (Clyne 69), Sharp
As mentioned above, Saints have completed the signings of Nathaniel Clyne and Paulo Gazzaniga. Clyne signs on a four-year deal from Crystal Palace. The right-back was out of contract at Selhurst Park so the transfer fee will be decided by tribunal. Clyne had been reportedly courted by a number of Premier League clubs. Even Manchester United were supposedly keeping tabs on him back in January. The 21 year old is an extremely promising player and has won countless of individual awards over the last four years. Clyne has won Palace's Young Player of the Year award twice as well as the Player of the Year award in 2011. Last season he was named in the Championship Team of the Year. On paper it's a great signing in a position we certainly needed strengthening. As well as Frazer Richardson did last year and Danny Butterfield has done in the past, we still needed an upgrade. By all accounts Clyne has the potential to go on and become one of the best players in the country.
Not quite so much is known of Gazzaniga, who arrives from Gillingham on a four-year deal. The Argentinian spent last season at Priestfield Stadium, having been released by Valencia the previous summer. Gazzaniga moved to Spain at a young age in an effort to forge a career in Europe. He never got beyond Valencia's youth team however. He spent the first half of 2011/12 behind Ross Flintley, before making the number one spot his own in the New Year. At 6ft 5in he's certainly got the physical attributes, and his distribution looks superb. Whether he will go straight into the first team squad as Kelvin Davis' understudy or work with the development outfit for a while is unclear at this stage. Saints are low on numbers when it comes to keepers. As well as Bartosz Bialkowski, the club have lost Jack Dovey and Steve Mowthorpe in recent months, meaning stoppers are in short supply at every level. Tommy Forecast has also joined Gillingham on loan for a season as part of the Gazzaniga deal. It's fair to say there weren't any tears shed when that news broke. I'd been amazed if Forecast lasts the season at Gillingham. He's been sent back early by more than one non-league team in the past, so don't expect him to last too long in League 2. Hopefully he's saved his money, because he'll struggle to find a professional club willing to employ him when his contract finally expires next year.
Elsewhere, Jack Cork appeared as a substitute in Team GB's Olympic warm-up clash with Brazil at The Riverside. Great Britain were outclassed and deservedly beaten 2-0, but Cork put in a reasonably assured display. Rumoured Saints target Jack Butland was superb between the sticks.
Guly Do Prado has signed a new contract until 2014. The Brazilian joined Saints on loan back in August 2010, before penning a permanent deal in January 2011. He has scored 22 goals in 85 games during that time. His previous contract was due to expire in 2013.
Nothing seems imminent as far as future transfers are concerned. PSV's Jeremain Lens and Blackburn's Scott Dann are the latest names to be linked.
It's not just the first team performing well this summer, both the U21's and the U18's have made a storming start to pre-season. The development squad beat Sholing 2-1, Winchester 3-1 and Exeter 2-1. Winger Sam McQueen scored four of those goals. He looks to be the brightest prospect among that group. Senior players Ryan Dickson, Jonathan Forte and Lee Barnard featured for the club's second string too. The trio did ok, but probably not enough to convince Nigel Adkins that they are worthy of a first team spot. All three are unlikely to ever feature again, but for a spate of injuries. A number of trialists have also appeared for Martin Hunter's side in recent weeks. They include former Ipswich keeper Cody Cropper and Yann Muitankula, who very little is known of.
The U18's hammered AFC Totton in their opener. In fact, they scored so many goals most people lost track of the final score. A few players said on Twitter afterwards it was 10-2, while others said 11-2 and 12-2. Whatever it was, it was a decent enough warm-up, regardless of the quality of the opposition. The youngsters also beat Brighton 2-1 at Staplewood last Saturday. Unfortunately the winning run came to an end on Tuesday with a defeat at Coventry.
Saints have received 2,800 tickets for the trip to Manchester City on August 19th. Tickets will go on sale to season ticket holders at 9am on Thursday 2nd August. Saints fans will have to shell out an extortionate £51 for upper tier seats, or £49 for the lower tier. Welcome back to the Premier League.