Ask the majority of those who support the ‘established’ contenders of the top four if Southampton can qualify for it and you will not get much a response.
Some will laugh, others will dismiss them completely and others will take the more measured answer that whilst they are playing well at the moment, the club on the south coast will fade away long before this season’s conclusion.
However, at the moment only one place in the top four looks secure. Chelsea are top and despite their draw on Sunday at Old Trafford, they are still overwhelming favourites to win the league.
Manchester City, many people’s favourites to win the league before a ball was kicked in August, should still have enough to finish in second place. Still should they lose to their closest rivals, Manchester United, this Sunday and nerves will begin to grow at Eastlands.
Despite being tipped as relegation candidates, Southampton actually find themselves ahead of City, in second place, at this current time. They have so far been more consistent than the remaining members of the ‘establishment’.
- Southampton predicted line up v Stoke City
- Southampton chasing Tottenham star Harry Kane
- Southampton proving grass isn't always greener
Saints bought well in the summer and have not let the substantial losses of last season’s playing staff affect them. Their new manager Ronald Koeman has signed the likes of Fraser Forster, Dusan Tadic, the impressive Graziano Pellè as well as Ryan Bertrand on loan. All of whom have experience playing in Europe’s two elite knockout competitions.
After only nine matches Tadic already has seven assists to his name. Southampton’s big man up front Pellè has notched six goals for the club, since his £8 million move from Feyenoord. Koeman himself knows from experience what it takes to play at the highest level club football has to offer.
Southampton can keep up early-season form
In these players and in their clearly talented Dutch manager, they have the tools to continue to stay in the mix.
Meanwhile, despite their considerable outlay on players in the summer, Manchester United find themselves languishing in eighth place, although much of their play on Sunday against Chelsea, suggests that performances are improving.
Rivals have been inconsistent
However, the fact remains that they have been inconsistent for much of the early stages of this campaign. The Red Devils must ensure that the Chelsea performance was not a one off, starting with City on Sunday. Liverpool have been equally as inconsistent.
They were fantastic against Tottenham Hotspur earlier this season, but since then such performances have been hard to come by. The Merseyside club scraped by against QPR, relying on two own goals to get three points, but despite a more secure defensive performance, only managed to draw against Hull City at Anfield.
Arsenal have been equally as inconsistent, also recently slipping up to Hull at home, whilst their north London rivals Tottenham have simply been poor for the majority of this campaign. For these clubs, their performances and consistency in terms of winning matches must improve. Failure to do so means that Southampton will not simply disappear.