St Johnstone recently enjoyed one of the best spells in Tommy Wright’s time as manager.
But six wins and two draws in their last nine games doesn’t even leave them inside the top six.
And the Perth boss believes that sums up the standard of the Premiership this season.
If they are to get back into the top half of the table at the weekend, Saints will have to get a result against Steven Gerrard’s Rangers at McDiarmid Park.
“If you’d said to me we would be six points off the top at this stage I’d be sure we would be in the top four,” said Wright.
“We have had one defeat in nine yet we are only seventh in the league.
“That highlights how tough it is going to be this year.
“Only a couple of weeks ago everybody was writing off Aberdeen. Now they are right up there. It was the same with Rangers after they drew at Dundee. Now they are back up there as well.
“Three clubs almost look as if they’re detached at the bottom and that hasn’t happened before. It was always going to be difficult for St Mirren coming up, Hamilton Accies are swimming against the tide in terms of finances and Dundee have had their problems and didn’t recruit well enough for the league.
“Better players have come into the league, without a doubt. Outside the Old Firm and Livingston – they have been brilliant – the other clubs, including ourselves, have all gone through sticky patches this season too.”
During one of those sticky patches, Saints were convincingly beaten at Ibrox. The 5-1 defeat wasn’t all bad though, according to Wright.
“We had a lot of chances but it was one of those games when we were too open and ended up getting a bit of a doing,” he said.
“The first goal against the bigger teams is always important as we proved against Aberdeen the other week.
“Hopefully, we have learned from it and hopefully we have learned from last Saturday (the defeat against Motherwell) as well. We have to respond again and go on another run. We know how difficult it is though.”
Wright has been impressed with Gerrard’s first few months in charge of Rangers.
“We had a chat after the last game at Ibrox and he was very open about things,” said the Northern Irishman. “He has done a good job.
“He will be disappointed at just falling short in the last game after doing so well to qualify for the group stage of the Europa League, but their performances at that level represent progress.
“They have made progress domestically too and now he and Rangers fans will want success in terms of silverware in the Scottish Cup or, most importantly, the league. Steven knows that and will want to be judged on that because he’s a winner.”