And the director of rugby believes it is an achievement just to finish in the top four of England’s top flight.
With a salary cap of £4.26million before academy credits, plus a marquee player who is excluded from the budget, the Premiership is more of a level playing field than other European leagues.
For example cash-rich French Top 14 clubs, with a cap set at £8million, spend vast amounts on players leaving other teams who can’t spend up to that level struggling to stay with the pace.
But with English rugby’s cap set so low, teams with smaller turnovers can compete and that has made for a close competition this season.
The likes of Exeter, London Wasps and Gloucester are all threatening Saints’ hopes of making the play-offs for the fourth successive season.
And ahead of Saturday’s trip to take on the Chiefs, who have yet to lose a home game this season, Mallinder said: “You’ve always got to do as well as you can. Every year it’s an achievement to get in the top four.
“There’s a salary cap, there’s no reason why any club should be a lot better than the others and consistently over the last couple of years we’ve done well.
“We wanted to go on and we want to win something. Everyone’s ambitious. The players, the coaches, the board, the fans, we’re all ambitious and want to win something but there’s also 11 other clubs who are doing exactly the same thing.
“We’ve got to concentrate. First thing’s first, we’ve got to get in the top four to give ourselves a semi-final and a play-off position.”
Saints started the season in style, winning their opening five league games, but they have slipped off the pace since.
Defeats to title rivals Leicester, Harlequins and Saracens (twice) have hurt Mallinder’s men but the boss remains philosophical about the current situation.
“It’s not really where we want to be,” he said. “Of course we want to be in that top four, but it’s not the end of the world. We’re still in there, we’re fighting and it’s what happens at the end of the season.
“We’ve had a tough few fixtures. We started the season really well. We won our first few games, we’ve had some tough games and they’ve not gone our way but we’re confident we can come back.
“We’re not getting carried away and we’re just really concentrating on each single week and getting those results. If we do that, we’ve got the team and we’ve got the squad who are good enough to get in that top four.”