By Ossian Shine
LONDON, Nov 22 (Reuters) - The key to Southampton's success this season is as much due to their cerebral powers as their soccer skills, says manager Mauricio Pochettino.
The surprise package of the season so far, the south coast Saints sit a lofty third in the table, and could vault to the top of the Premier League if results go their way this weekend when they visit leaders Arsenal.
Their exploits are drawing ever more admiring glances from pundits and commentators, and international managers are dipping into the Saints squad to seed their own teams with Pochettino's men.
The key to this rapid success, the Argentine says, is the players' mental capacity to grasp his methods.
"I have at my disposal really intelligent players that have great potential and great skill," the 41-year-old told reporters.
"It doesn't surprise me the fact that they learnt my methods - or the team's methods - so quickly because they have the skill, necessary ability and capacity to understand what we want from them.
"I have full confidence in my staff and I have full confidence in my players. I think that's what enabled us to actually come this far... the fact that we have full confidence in our methods and our professionalism as a group of technical managers."
Southampton, three points adrift of leaders Arsenal on 22 points from 11 matches, travel to the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, still blanching from last season's 6-1 hammering.
It is a very different side which tackles the Gunners this time, though - all season they have conceded just five goals; fewer than the half-dozen Arsenal belted past them in that one match.
"We believe we can get a positive result out of this game," Pochettino said. "We always believe in that.
"(This team have) come so far in such a short period of time. We've been progressing as a team, from strength to strength. We have a lot of young players that are coming from the Academy and pushing very hard and playing very well.
"We don't have any worries about the depth of our squad because we have a lot of young players that guarantee us a very good immediate future. We're covered in that sense." (Editing by John O'Brien)