THE Premier League has changed somewhat since Seb Larsson arrived in English football almost 12 years ago, but the midfielder believes Sunderland can take advantage of the unpredictable nature of the top flight this season.
Larsson first arrived in England at the age of 16 when Manchester United and Arsenal were the two most dominant forces in the Premier League.
Season after season, the same teams were involved in tussles at the top and the bottom with very few exceptions, but now it has become closer than ever.
The emergence of teams such as Manchester City, the reigning champions, and Tottenham and Everton, who have both managed to break into the top four, offers hope to other sides aiming to emulate their success.
Of course, things have changed at the other end of the table and teams some have regarded as 'too good to go down' have ended up in the Championship.
This season has thrown up several surprises already and after beating Man City back in December, the Black Cats know anything is possible.
Larsson believes Martin O'Neill's side can take advantage of that as they look to break into the top ten, but the Sweden international is also wary of how quickly things can turn for the worse.
"The league is very unpredictable and it has been all season," Larsson said.
"Obviously in the last few years we've seen Tottenham really push on for the top four and obviously Man City. You can't really call it a top four anymore, because other teams are doing well.
"But the same goes for the bottom, it's tight. The whole bottom half could get into trouble, but then again a lot of those teams could end up in the top ten.
"That's why you've got to look at it in a positive way. We've got to keep that in our minds, but as I say you can't get complacent and think you're completely away from trouble because we aren't."
The Black Cats have managed seven victories in 26 league games and lie 13th in the table, six points above relegation and four away from Stoke in tenth.
Larsson admits the Wearsiders must start accumulating more points between now and the end of the season and believes the team's inconsistency has been their biggest problem.
He said: "We've got to be honest and say we need to pick up a lot more points. In time, though, if we do well we can't just sit where we are, we can really push on and climb a good few places if we finish the season strong and of course that's what we've got to try and do.
"To be honest I don't know how many points we are away from the European places. I haven't been looking and I don't really know how many points we are away from the relegation zone either.
"I know what we're capable of. We've been way too inconsistent and we shouldn't have gone to Reading and lost that game. We should be better than that.
"It can be frustrating at times when we know what we're capable of and we're not performing on the day.
"We've had a good performance and then a couple of times it's happened in the next game we feel really confident but for some reason we don't turn up on the day. For one it's not good enough and the second thing is it's frustrating when we know what we can do.
"We know what we've got to do. From now until the end of the season it could go both ways, but I'm looking at it from the positive side.
"We could climb quite a few places, but at the same time you do keep it in the back of your mind that we can't just lose every game from here on in."
The Black Cats spent the majority of last week in Dubai for a warm weather training camp, but they are now back on Wearside preparing for Saturday's trip to West Brom.
Larsson hopes the mid-season break will prove to be a useful exercise on Saturday and he revealed the squad has returned refreshed and ready to tackle their remaining games.
"It's something quite a few clubs do," the 27-year-old said. "It gets us away from the training ground. We've gone over, trained everyday, trained hard and it's just about getting the group together away from football.
"It's a good way to spend time with each other and get to know each other a bit more rather than see each other for a few hours at the training ground and then go home. It's just a way to refresh yourself and get back ready to go again."
More Sunderland AFC News
- Match Ratings: Sunderland 0 Fulham 0
- Poyet: 'We need to be more creative if Defoe is to start scoring'
- Match Report: Sunderland 0 Fulham 0
- Sunderland directive is to take the FA Cup seriously
- Defoe desperate to ditch his Cup Final suit with Sunderland
- Defoe's arrival strengthens Sunderland's London links
- Sunderland need to eradicate their FA Cup demons
- Press Conference Update: Big-name trio likely to miss out for Sunderland
- Jack Rodwell hails goalkeeper's contribution
- Defoe hoping to emulate Super Kev as he settles into life at Sunderland