Anyone who tuned in to Saturday's televised match between Southampton and Everton might have found themselves questioning which side was in the race for Champions League football. Saints ran out comfortable 2-0 winners and in truth completely outclassed the visitors -- it was one-way traffic from the off and the hosts led within a minute, never looking back as the watching Roy Hodgson was entertained by his England charges.
As I said in my preview, on paper the Everton squad isn't much better than Saints, and it was the South Coast club who proved the more capable on Saturday.
- O'Farrell: Saints damage Everton hopes
Standout performances from Dejan Lovren and Nathaniel Clyne at the back and the midfield trio of Jack Cork, Steven Davis and Victor Wanyama left Everton chasing shadows. The visitors, with much more to play for, found themselves outfought and outplayed; second to every ball and on the end of a comprehensive defeat.
Roberto Martinez's men looked shell-shocked as they struggled to impose themselves on the game, and it was the home side's World Cup hopefuls that shone. If Hodgson was asking himself who should go to Brazil at left back between Leighton Baines and Luke Shaw or in attacking midfield between Ross Barkley and Adam Lallana, the answer was 2-0 to Southampton. In more ways than one.
If the board needed any indication that sensible investment in the squad could be fruitful, Saturday's game was a good example. A couple of decent acquisitions in the right areas and there is no reason why Southampton can't overtake the blue half of Merseyside. It is crucial now, though, that they give Mauricio Pochettino the assurances he needs to sign a new contract and commit his future to the club. That will be paramount to fending off the inevitable influx of offers from clubs for Saints' key players and convincing everyone at the club that the progression isn't over.
It is undoubtedly going to be a nervous, testing summer, but the intention of the club is to carry on evolving. That intention is meaningless without the right investment, and it will be interesting to see how this fledgling board deals with its first foray into the world of football dealings. In an ideal world, Saints will return from the World Cup and their holidays and report to Staplewood with a couple of new faces in the mix, ready to keep the Pochettino revolution marching on.