HERE is a sobering statistic for Saints fans to consider.
Though this season has undoubtedly been a success – the club could finish six places higher in one of the best leagues in the world than they did last season – it is sometimes worth scratching beneath the surface of the Premier League table.
Saints take on Champions League chasing Everton at St Mary’s tomorrow, and recent history suggests they will struggle to win.
That is because Saints have played 16 games against the clubs currently in the top ten with them this season, and have won just twice.
The most eye-catching of those was the early season success at Anfield against a Liverpool side minus Luis Suarez through suspension but now favourites to win their first top flight title since 1990.
Saints’ only other success against a top ten team was the 4-0 thrashing of Alan Pardew’s Newcastle at the end of last month.
In those 16 games, Mauricio Pochettino has seen his side collect just 12 points.
Sunderland, Norwich, West Bromwich Albion and Stoke all have better records against top 10 teams than Saints do.
Saints obviously have a far better record against teams in the bottom half of the table, but if they harbour ambitions of rising higher – and they unquestionably do – then at some point they need to beat more of the teams above them.
Here is another sobering statistic.
Everton arrive at St Mary’s only three places higher than Saints, but 20 points ahead of them.
Saints are therefore closer to the relegation zone – 19 points clear of third bottom Cardiff – than they are to qualifying for the Europa League in fifth place.
Despite all their improvements this term – more points, more goals scored, less goals conceded, winning plaudits for their use of young English talent – the stark reality is there in the league table for all to see.
Saints have so far spent over £60m on new players following their promotion back to the Premier League.
Their signings have so far been a mixed bag, but that spending spree has helped them reach the top eight.
As you can see from the table, though, the next jump up is far harder to make than leaping from 14th (Saints’ finish last term) to eighth or even ninth.
Everton will roll up tomorrow boasting the second best defensive record in the Premier League, with just 34 goals conceded.
Saints, for their part, have only scored one goal in 256 minutes since the luckless Jay Rodriguez suffered his horror knee injury at Manchester City earlier this month.
And that goal was a Rickie Lambert penalty.
Despite enjoying over 67 per cent of the possession against Cardiff and Aston Villa in the past two games, Saints have fired blanks.
Keeping the ball has not been a problem for Saints – with an average 58.7 per cent possession rate, no Premier League side has kept it longer.
That is a plus point, but do Saints have the personnel to really hurt teams if one or two of their more creative players are out injured?
A third blank in a row tomorrow could see Saints slip even further adrift of where they want to be.
It would further underline the need for more investment in the squad this summer ... if Saints are to show that this season and a potential eighth place finish is not as good as it gets.