Premier League 2021/22 preview: Even keeping Ings won't save sorry Saints from the drop

Andy Schooler looks at the Premier League relegation odds and tips the Southampton malaise to continue - with or without their in-demand striker.

2021/22 will be the Premier League's 30th season and in only one of the previous 29 have the three newly promoted clubs gone straight back down (the quiz question answer is 1997/98 with Bolton, Barnsley and Crystal Palace the teams involved).

This time around, none of the three newcomers - Watford, Norwich and Brentford - is bigger than even money to be relegated.

Put the two statistics together and there looks value to be had among some of the bigger prices in the relegation market. History certainly suggests one of those three at evens or shorter won't be earning their backers a profit.

Plenty that can go wrong at Palace

Crystal Palace are considered the most likely of the established clubs to drop out of the top flight.

It's not hard to see why. They've had a big turnover of playing staff, so many of last season's squad having run their contracts down, while one of last season's stars who remains, Eberechi Eze, may not play until 2022 as he is recovering from Achilles surgery.

In addition, the Eagles have swapped the most experienced manager in the business, Roy Hodgson, for a boss who is yet to manage in the Premier League, Patrick Vieira. The last time they went down the road of a big-name player with no PL managerial experience, Frank de Boer lasted only a few weeks…

There's clearly plenty which could go wrong here but a price of 6/4 looks to have taken all the negatives firmly into account.

Burnley price doesn't appeal

Burnley slipped back last season and ended up just one place above the relegation zone.

However, that was also a full 11 points above 18th-placed Fulham and it should be remembered that in two of the three previous seasons, they'd finished in the top half.

Sean Dyche knows how to get results in this division and while he'll again be working with a squad short on quality, he'll doubtless get his men set up in a way to earn points.

In Chris Wood they have a striker who will score goals, while defensively Ben Mee and James Tarkowski are a solid pair, backed up by a top goalkeeper in Nick Pope.

Time and again the Clarets have made short quotes in this market look rather silly and I'd want more than 9/4 about them going down this time.

Ignore the Ashley effect at Newcastle

Newcastle are another club regularly chalked up pretty short for the drop - they are 11/4 shots this season.

It's the Mike Ashley effect - the purse strings remain tight at St James' Park and Steve Bruce isn't the 'sexy' manager the fans would like. He really isn't sexy. That nose…

Anyway, he has done a decent enough job given the tools at his disposal and last term the Magpies finished a massive 17 points above the bottom three.

Given some of the injuries they had to deal with - Callum Wilson missed a significant chunk of the campaign, while Allan Saint-Maximin was absent for a third of the games - it could easily have been an even wider gap.

If Wilson, an excellent signing last summer, stays fit for most of this season, Newcastle should again survive with something to spare.

Best bet

So, if not the teams already mentioned, what is the best relegation bet?

At the prices, I like the look of Southampton at 9/2.

Given how they finished the season, it was almost impossible to believe they had actually led the league in the autumn.

Across the second half of the campaign, they won just 14 points - the worst record across the final 19 games of any club in the top flight. If you go back to the day they hit top spot, they won just 27 points from 30 subsequent games. That's relegation form across three-quarters of the season.

That dismal run included a 9-0 hammering at Old Trafford. You might pass that off as a freak - but then the Saints also lost 9-0 to Leicester the season before.

That thrashing contributed to a goals-against total of 68; only West Brom conceded more. And even if that game at Manchester United had finished only 1-0, they'd still have let in 60 - something only four other clubs managed to do.

The defence is yet to be strengthened - in fact Ryan Bertrand has actually been released - with the summer having seen very little transfer activity at St Mary's.

At least midfield enforcer Oriol Romeu will return after missing much of their awful run due to injury but it may take more than that to turn things around.

Some will suggest the return of fans will be such a factor. However, in 2019/20, when two-thirds of games took place in front of crowds, Southampton had the second-worst home record. In 2018/19 - the last season when every match had supporters in attendance - they were only 14th in the 'home' table. In short, St Mary's hasn't been a fortress for some time.

Some goals from Danny Ings would help. He netted only five in the second half of the last campaign.

However, the 29-year-old remains a feature in the transfer columns, often seen as a potential replacement for Harry Kane at Spurs. Kane's no-show at training on Monday would not have been welcomed on the south coast.

Ings' current presence in the Saints squad may put some off backing the 9/2 but he was involved in much of last season's malaise.

To me, it looks a price worth investing in.

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