Mauricio Pellegrino believes Southampton are showing signs of returning to their “real level”.
The manager has been the first to admit his side have not reached their potential in several games this season, but has identified clear progress in recent performances.
Saints are now four matches unbeaten after clinching their place in the Emirates FA Cup fifth round with a 1-0 victory over Watford at St Mary’s on Saturday.
“We have been working a lot to try to improve with the ball a little bit more,” Pellegrino said.
“Every single game is an opportunity to believe we can recover our real level, and today (Saturday) we showed in some moments that we are a little bit closer.
“It is really difficult to move forward quickly from a really bad situation, but I repeat that I think the feeling is that we are in a good way; we are working hard and the mentality of the players is much better now.”
Stephens’ fourth-minute goal, his first for the club, was the crowning moment on the defender’s 24th birthday.
“I have to say Happy Birthday and enjoy this day, but the goal is important for everybody,” Pellegrino added.
“We have to be humble because in one action everything can change, but we have to be positive and we have got confidence now.”