Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl wants his team to stop being “too nice” as they look to get their Premier League campaign back on track at Everton.
After briefly sitting top during November, the Saints have plummeted down the table in 2021 following a dismal run of seven defeats from eight league games.
Hasenhuttl has seen his options depleted by a string of injuries this year, with midfielder Oriol Romeu the latest absentee.
The experienced Spaniard, 29, is now set to miss the rest of the season after suffering a fractured ankle, which will need surgery, during the 3-0 loss at Leeds.
Forward Theo Walcott, defender Kyle Walker-Peters and midfielder Ibrahima Diallo all continue their own recovery following recent fitness problems.
Saints will also not have the option of Takumi Minamino against the Toffees.
The on-loan Liverpool forward injured his hamstring after coming on as a second-half substitute at Elland Road, where the hope had been for the Japan international to make the most of some much-needed match action.
Following Monday night’s game at Goodison Park, Southampton travel to bottom club Sheffield United and will also host both Brighton and Burnley in the coming weeks before heading to relegation-battlers West Brom after Easter.
Going into such a crucial run of fixtures, Hasenhuttl feels the players need to perhaps adopt a more cynical mindset for the challenges ahead.
“We are definitely sometimes too nice, or we have been in the last week when we have an opposition player laying in our box and then we play the ball out and when the opposition doesn’t win the ball back, they make tactical fouls,” the Austrian said.
“To push this is something in your behaviour and the behaviour we have here is too nice.
“This is hard to change as this is our mentality and the only problem is that you always get punished when you are correct and stick to the rules in football.
“We are nasty in the sense of being aggressive on the ball and attacking, but in other parts we are definitely too nice.”
Former RB Leipzig boss Hasenhuttl recalled a campaign in Germany when he instilled more of an edge to the group, which when all was said and done, he admitted just did not feel right.
“I changed this sort of behaviour as a manager when I had a year when I was promoted with Ingolstadt from the Bundesliga.2 in 2015,” the Austrian said.
“We were the nastiest team in the league, but in the end it doesn’t make you happy as a manager.”
Hasenhuttl, appointed at St Mary’s Stadium in early December 2018, added: “The behaviour we have here at Southampton is normally why I love English football.
“Players are always honest and they don’t roll away, they try to stay on their feet and it is still far away from all the other leagues in world football and this is why I like it so much.”