With Paris Saint-Germain rising to the top of Ligue 1 ahead of traditional powerhouses Marseille and Lyon, it is quite possible that the current top three in Ligue 1 may still be there at the end of the campaign, but Toulouse are lurking just behind as Alain Casanova's side try to shake off their image as one of France's most unfashionable sides.
A thumping 4-0 win at Evian on Saturday has left Toulouse in fourth place, just three points adrift of PSG, and a 2-0 loss at the Parc des Princes in September remains the only defeat of the season so far for a side with bags of potential. After gaining a reputation as a dour, defensive outfit in recent years, Toulouse are finally playing with a bit of spark.
Casanova does deserve credit for the job he has done since replacing Elie Baup as coach at Le Stadium in 2008, having led TFC to a fourth-place finish in his first campaign at the helm and to eighth in each of the last two seasons. But, up until now, the recipe has been a simple one - stop the opposition from scoring, and snatch one at the other end whenever possible. In 2008-09, André-Pierre Gignac's haul of 24 goals led Toulouse to the brink of a Champions League place, but they have averaged less than a goal a game in three successive seasons.
The style of football has rarely made for much of a spectacle for neutrals and has done little to increase interest in the team in France's fourth-largest city, where rugby is the dominant sport. However, things do now appear to be changing as Toulouse reap the benefits of one of the best youth academies in the country. As a result, Casanova has turned almost a whole team of youngsters into first-team regulars, and has also had little need to spend in the transfer market.
"We have been working on a project for five years," he said recently. "It's a project that the players are familiar with and are well suited to. Our system and the way we play the game are well established and are known by all the players here. They need to be able to work in a certain way to fit in. The fewer players you sign, the more time you have to work on these things."
Leading the way now are midfielders Etienne Capoue and Moussa Sissoko. Anchoring the midfield, Capoue has been linked with Arsenal, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid and has broken into the France set-up since the appointment of Didier Deschamps as coach in July. Sissoko won his first caps in over two years in the recent matches against Japan and Spain. He is also being closely watched by other clubs.
Casanova has also brought through the excellent goalkeeper Ali Ahamada, who even scored a remarkable backward diving header in stoppage time to earn Toulouse a draw against Rennes last month. And then there is Wissam Ben Yedder, a quick and skilful striker who previously represented France at futsal, and has six league goals to his name already this season.
"He has something different, something that few other players have," says former Juventus and Roma defender Jonathan Zebina, now the Toulouse captain. "He senses where the goal is, and scores as many with his head as he does with both feet. He is our little Romário."
It was without Ben Yedder that Toulouse faced Evian on Saturday, however. He was left on the bench, officially rested but perhaps dropped after making headlines for the wrong reasons last week - the forward was one of five France under-21 players spotted in a Paris nightclub when he was meant to be in Le Havre with the rest of the team preparing for a European Championship play-off against Norway.
But, with Zebina marshalling the defence, Toulouse scored four goals in a Ligue 1 game for the first time since April 2010. Franck Tabanou - another youth product - scored a superb opener while Emmanuel Rivière's two goals both came at the end of superb passing moves.
Of course, Toulouse also lay fourth in the table after nine games last season before fading away. However, if they can carry on their present form, then the city's rugby-mad public might even fall for Casanova's side this season. But those would-be supporters had better be quick before the team's most exciting talents are lured elsewhere.
Andrew Scott - Pitchside Europe