Ralph Hasenhuttl admits the Southampton project is ahead of schedule – but knows there can be no sense of complacency as they prepare for Saturday’s visit of Manchester City.
The Saints sit third in the Premier League table, following a run of just one defeat from 11 games following the midweek draw at Arsenal.
City, meanwhile, are out to push themselves back up the league and kickstart their campaign following successive draws.
The Austrian has overseen a transformation in fortunes at St Mary’s Stadium since he took charge in early December 2018, when the club were facing a battle for their top-flight status.
Hasenhuttl, though, knows the hard work must continue if Southampton are to remain upwardly mobile.
Asked if his Southampton project was ahead of schedule, Hasenhuttl said: “At the moment, definitely because we are not where we expected to be in the table.
“If you want to take this as a statement of how good we have worked, then yes we will take it.
“The last game against Manchester City (during July) was important for us to show that we can also win against such a team, play more football against such a team.
“This was a brave decision to do at the time, but now we have learned a lot since then and that has helped us become a better team.”
Hasenhuttl added: “The general quality we have is now (this season) a higher one. That is what I feel.
“As long as we bring this on the pitch, when you show this in the game, we have a bigger, bigger chance for winning games.
“If you had told me before the season that on the 13th match day, we would be four points ahead of Man City – okay, they have played one game less – I would say you are not really right, (you are) stupid.
“But we are at the moment, so we have done a few things right maybe.
“Now we have to look to be again a good opponent and a competitive opponent.”
City head into Saturday’s match on the back of a frustrating 1-1 draw against struggling West Brom on Tuesday night and remain well off the pace in ninth place.
Hasenhuttl, though, is expecting nothing other than the sternest of tests of how far his own side have come.
“We play against a fantastic team,” the Saints boss said.
“There are different ways to play against such teams, but in the end you get a result by investing more than the opponent. That’s what we did last game (during July), we had a good game plan.
“We are not playing worse than that time because I think we developed our game since then, and every part of our game.
“We are now a better team, so I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t have a chance to get something – but definitely you need a fantastic game and a fantastic day.
“We have played a few games now (this season) and the team is very committed, very well organised.
“Tactically we are on a different level now and will be hopefully a good challenge for us.”
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