ALMOST exactly a year ago, on September 26 2020, Saints embarked on a superb run of 23 points from ten games that saw Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side top the Premier League table.

Results included a 90th minute 3-3 draw at Stamford Bridge and a comfortable 2-0 victory over Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton, among the seven wins and two draws – Manchester United was the only defeat.

That run came after disappointing defeats in both of the first two games of the season, with a number of squad players hitting a remarkable purple patch that – given the second half of the season’s results – likely kept Saints in the top division.

Now, Saints are five games into the Premier League season and have lost just one, the opening day affair, but also haven’t won.

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Asked to compare how he thinks the squad looks exactly one year on, Hasenhuttl answered: “It's hard to compare - we had a completely different pre-season.

“We only had a short break after a very good period after lockdown where we continued playing well in the whole of October, November and December.

Daily Echo: Goalscorer Danny Ings is the easiest miss to pinpoint (Pic: PA)Goalscorer Danny Ings is the easiest miss to pinpoint (Pic: PA)

“It was, for sure, our strongest time last season. But the Premier League is a long run. It's such a long time that you have to perform at the highest level.

“I must say that I'm very happy about how compact we are in the moment and I can see that we have definitely the quality improved this season. The signings are good. The young lads are fantastic for the team. They give us a new mentality.

“And I enjoy working with the team. That doesn't mean that we don't have to work hard or learn a lot, but it's enjoyable to do this with these guys and we know that we have 38 games - a whole season.”

A lot of pundits and those outside the sphere of the club pinpointed Saints for relegation this season, after the mini-exodus of a number of first-teamers like Jannik Vestergaard, Ryan Bertrand and notably talisman Danny Ings.

Daily Echo: Current Saints forward Che Adams was prolific during the 23-point spell (Pic: PA)Current Saints forward Che Adams was prolific during the 23-point spell (Pic: PA)

With Saints struggling for goals at the moment, you do wonder whether Ings would have found any different opportunities to take in the opening five – but it was, of course, his funds that allowed for the revamp of the squad.

Asked about his season goals, Hasenhuttl added: “In the end we want to be in a good position but it’s important to take points continuously and this is the goal for us and the schedule is tough like always.

“Against Man City, a point - and even more as was possible - is something nobody expected from us.

Daily Echo: From the first five fixtures, Saints have outperformed the corresponding results of last season (Pic: PA)From the first five fixtures, Saints have outperformed the corresponding results of last season (Pic: PA)

“I think it gives us a lot of confidence because we have shown that we can defend against such a team that scored, in the three games before, 15 or 16 goals so this gives yourself confidence.

“But it should lead to this situation that you are confident but not leaning back. Then you stay motivated and focused. In front we need to first win and this is the goal for the weekend.”