Back to back wins over the past couple of weeks have seen Southampton start collecting the points that their performances have merited, and the Saints now have a favourable fixture list to look forward to as they attempt to climb the table.
When Southampton were handed their fixture list in the summer, they might have had real reason to fret about their chance in the impending season.
Whatever people say about having to play every team twice no matter what the order, it's very unhelpful to be pitted against Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal as three of your first four fixtures. Adkins' side have struggled to bounce back from the poor start those fixtures led to, but in recent matches they look to have turned a corner, and might now be able to enjoy the benefits of such a tough start, with slightly easier matches now coming up over the festive period.
Having won against QPR and Newcastle, Southampton can go into the next set of games with a fair amount of confidence. Although they still face tricky away games at Liverpool and Chelsea in the coming weeks, they also play Norwich, Reading and Sunderland at home, matches which give them a chance to maintain some momentum from their recent wins.
Their defence is still an issue, as the clean sheet against Newcastle this weekend was their first of the season, and was largely due to an excellent performance from Gazzaniga in goal.
If they could stop Norwich scoring again in their midweek fixture, then they may be able to gain some confidence at the back, but they still look vulnerable in that area and need to strengthen in January.
However they look far better going forward, with their midfield full of talented players that are starting to hit their straps in the Premier League. Lallana and Ramirez were always going to be vital to their chances of staying up, and have been excellent in the past couple of matches.
Jack Cork and Jason Puncheon have also been very good, and the former's recent return from injury looks an important factor in Saint's improvement.
With confidence growing week by week, Southampton have a good chance of picking up plenty of points over the next month. If their defence can maintain some solidity, their talented midfield should do the rest.
With Aston Villa also improving, and QPR perhaps about to be boosted by Harry Redknapp’s arrival, this will be an important spell for the sides around the bottom of the table. Southampton need to build further momentum from their wins over QPR and Newcastle, and the busy fixture list coming up give them a perfect chance
image: © joncandy