Many may have thought it was impossible after Southampton got rid of what seemed like everyone bar the janitor during the summer transfer window, but new boss Ronald Koeman has kept the south coast club on the up since taking over from Mauricio Pochettino.
Wise spending has seen pace and inventiveness in attack be supplemented by a watertight defence to help the Saints sit second after 12 games of the Premier League season, making them 28/17 chances in the race for the top four, according to bwin.com.
A quick glance at the fixture list, and the gauntlet of top teams that await them, may well curb the enthusiasm over the club’s chances of crashing next season’s Champions League party, but their dark run of games shouldn’t put punters off too much.
Koeman and co entertain both Manchester sides over the course of the next three games, with a trip to face Arsenal sandwiched in the middle of it.
However, as our graphic below shows, even if Southampton lose all three of those games they should still find themselves in pretty good shape, such is the more wide-open nature of the Premier League this season.
Of the teams to finish fourth in the last five seasons, Saints’ 26 points ranks as the second most at this stage of the campaign yet only one side, Arsenal’s vintage of last term, held a higher league position.
The current gap between Koeman’s side and fifth-placed Newcastle is seven points, meaning that even if there was a nine-point swing over the course of the next three games, Southampton would still be within touching distance of a top-four spot.
Unlike last season, where a similar nightmare run of games saw the club win just once in nine outings to obliterate their top-four chances, the Champions League ship can stay firmly on course this term.