Sept 17 (Reuters) - As if further proof were needed after a 6-1 thumping by Arsenal, Southampton defender Danny Fox summed up the newly promoted side’s woes perfectly as they still seek a solitary point back in the top flight when he said: “We need to show more character and believe that we can play at this level”.
Four league games into the new season and Southampton are rooted at the bottom of the Premier League with no points and a goal difference of minus nine.
All the positive talk in the world will count for nothing unless the south coast side can get some points on the board, and soon, as last season’s high-fliers struggle to adapt to life at the top.
“I think we needed to show a bit more steel and a bit more character after going three goals down and especially at a place like the Emirates because it’s always going to be tough,” Fox told Southampton’s TV station Saints Player.
“You can go on about getting punished and seeing games out, but we should have held on against Manchester United the other week when we were 2-1 up, no matter who was on the pitch.”
On Saturday, Southampton were 4-0 down inside 40 minutes at Arsenal, and Fox, perhaps unnecessarily, spelled out the dilemma. “We were playing against top players and we keep saying you’ll get punished against top teams because they only need one chance,” he said.
When the Premier League fixtures were announced, Southampton knew they faced a steep learning curve with matches against Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal comprising three of their first four.
The fact they led both City and United 2-1 before ultimately losing both 3-2, and were beaten by Wigan in the one game they may have realistically hoped to win, can have done little for the side’s confidence.
Saints manager Nigel Adkins knows he must now lift his team for next weekend’s match against Aston Villa.
”Everyone knew that the first four fixtures were going to be challenging, but we want to win games of football,“ Adkins said. ”I‘m a very positive person, so we’ll analyse this then draw a line underneath it having learned as much as we can.
”We’ll have a good week’s training and get everyone together - there are no hiding places so we’ll stand up and be counted.
“St Mary’s will be bouncing next week because it’s a game we’ve obviously got to go and win. We believe that we’re doing a lot of the right things, but it’s about picking points up... so next week is a big three points that we’ve got to go and get.”
As Adkins is learning the hard way, positivity and belief only go so far in the ruthless world of top-flight soccer. Next week’s match against a mid-table Villa will reveal more about Southampton than any managerial rhetoric.
At the other end of the table, however, Arsenal’s free-wheeling win tucked them in to third place, on eight points, one behind Manchester United and two behind leaders Chelsea.
The top four already has a familiar feel to it with champions Manchester City trailing Arsenal on goal difference.
The bottom three are also no great surprise with another promoted side Reading second-bottom with one point and Queen’s Park Rangers in 18th with two. One unfamiliar sight at the bottom end of the table remains Liverpool, however.
The once-mighty Reds have just two points from their opening four matches and lie 17th. Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Sunderland condemned them to their worst league start for 101 years. (Writing by Ossian Shine in Singapore; Editing by Peter Rutherford)