WHEN Russell Martin first took over as Southampton manager this summer he expressed his desire to call upon a settled starting XI every week.

No longer did he want his team’s level of performance to suffer as a result of a few changes. 

Instead, he wanted the certainty that even if a few alterations were required, be they enforced or rotation, Southampton would not falter.

Having struggled for consistency in results and team selection during the first eight games of the season, Martin has now got his wish.

Since naming his first unchanged lineup of the season away at Stoke City, Saints have made few alterations to their starting team from game to game - Preston away being the only exception.

That consistency theme carried through to Saturday. With Jan Bednarek out with a one-game suspension, Mason Holgate stepped in as the only change.

A 2-1 win followed as Southampton rounded off the latest run of league fixtures with an eight-game unbeaten run heading into the international break.

There could be no better player than Holgate to highlight Southampton's newfound success when changing the team.

When he first arrived at the club on loan from Everton, Holgate entered an unsettled side. As a result, he struggled in his debut at Sunderland, losing 5-0 and finding himself out of the team.

Daily Echo: Mason Holgate was awarded man of the match against West Brom 

There have been no signs of those struggles in his recent appearance. He did well when called upon to replace Taylor Harwood-Bellis against Preston and was named man of the match in the win over his former side West Brom.

Captain Adam Armstrong was quick to praise the defender's ability to slot into the team after some time waiting for his next opportunity.

He said: "I thought Mason was brilliant stepping into the side today having been out of the team for a couple of weeks.

"James Bree was good as well. It shows the togetherness in the squad at the minute. The lads are working hard every day to be in the starting XI. It shows how good of a squad we have.

"On paper, we have a quality team. The lads are pushing each other every day to get better in order to get back to the Premier League. It's something we all want to achieve under this gaffer."

Saints have only used 24 players in the league this season. For comparison, fellow promotion chasers Leeds United have used 29 (the most in the division). Championship strugglers Sheffield Wednesday have used 28 as have Stoke City.

While the squad may be comparatively small in size, Martin has expressed his delight with the quality at his disposal.

That depth was boosted on the weekend as deadline-day signing Ross Stewart made his long-awaited Southampton debut.

Martin wasn’t quite able to call upon that depth during his time at Swansea.

He did have the likes of Matt Grimes, whose evergreen availability is akin to James Ward-Prowse during Southampton’s Premier League tenure. 

However, he didn’t have the depth of quality a recently relegated Premier League club can afford their manager. 

Director of football, Jason Wilcox may have been the man leading Southampton's transfer dealings this summer, but there was a certain Martin angle on things.

Daily Echo:

We all know about his history with Flynn Downes and Ryan Manning. His fondness for Ryan Fraser is well-reported too. 

While it's true the wage bill needed to be cut, the 37 year old also sought to get rid of those players not suited to the club's new philosophy.

The likes of Romain Perraud, Duje Caleta-Car and Paul Onuachu have the talent required to operate in the Championship, but they are not Martin-style players.

Moving those individuals on and replacing them with newcomers more suited to play under the new regime was key in the search for consistent performances.

Perhaps Southampton's biggest personnel alteration challenge will come when they travel to Huddersfield after the international break.

Martin will not be in the dugout at John Smith's Stadium, having earned a one-game suspension by accumulating his third yellow card of the season against West Brom.

Losing a manager whose imprint on the team is so clear could be a major weakness, but if recent weeks are anything to go by, this Southampton team stand a good chance of being unaffected by change - no matter the reason.