Southampton fans can be forgiven for thinking their team are Premier League title contenders.Their recent impressive run of five wins on the trot has raised the bar high.
Their chants of we're gonna win the league have been down to their impressive run.The south coast club are comfortably second in the standings, four points adrift of third placed Manchester City and nine ahead of Liverpool, last season's runners up.
The road ahead is not as smooth as has been their last five fixtures against mid table opposition. Games against Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United will provide an acid test of where they lie in terms of their strength.
Tough tests ahead
An average of six points against these four will be a testament of their competitiveness. This would also be a clear indication of their mental strength and ability to hold on and mount a serious challenge for their top four places. However, straight losses against these teams could break their spirit and current belief.
These four teams have been hugely inconsistent, though, and have lost against way inferior opponents. Manchester City for example have been disastrous at best in Europe and have struggled against weaker teams domestically, including the weekend's draw to QPR.
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Manchester United on the other hand have tried buying their way back into europe's elite and patience will be required.
Liverpool have also looked a pale shadow of the teams that waltzed through defences last season scoring at will. European demands have not helped, nor has the loss of Luis Suarez to Barcelona and Daniel Sturridge through injury.
Southampton will surely have a crack into the top four given their challengers predicaments, but it will not be a breeze.
Southampton s approach paying off?
Southampton's emergence has been through some highly questionable board decisions. However, their high risk approach is rapidly paying off with huge rewards. From the sacking of Nigel Adkins to the controversial appointment of unknown Mauricio Pochettino and letting him go. Their last three managers have all built on their predecessor's success.
Current boss Ronald Koeman has really stood out as a shrewd appointment, especially with the team's impressive run after the mass exodus of star players. Southampton have shown huge ambition and these appointments have all justified that.
Long serving managers in mid-table Premier League teams have shown a complacency and a risk averse approach. From West Ham United's Sam Allardyce to Alan Pardew at Newcastle.
Southampton have averted that tragedy by getting managers who will take them forward as the decision to sack Adkins after ensuring their promotion.
The end justifies the means
However of the other teams none looks adept enough to challenge the established order at the top other than Southampton. However time is cruel and only their league position in May will be used to evaluate and pass judgement on the success of their season.
For now, the bar has been raised high and the least expectation's from the fans will be Europa League football.
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