Ronald Koeman says his Southampton side lacked “belief, determination, character and mentality” in their 2-0 Premier League defeat to Bournemouth on Tuesday night.
The Cherries’ first home league win over Saints since 1958 sets up Eddie Howe’s men to secure their top-flight future, with key battles against Newcastle and Swansea ahead.
Steve Cook and Benik Afobe struck to guide the hosts home, leaving Saints manager Koeman livid with his lacklustre stars.
The Dutchman abandoned his 3-5-2 formation after little more than half an hour, but insisted his players’ lack of heart proved far more pivotal in defeat.
“We have played several weeks with that system, but I had to recognise the danger of Bournemouth’s left-back (Charlie Daniels) and that was very good from their coach,” Koeman said.
“That created a lot of problems, but that’s only talking tactics.
“There was also a big difference tonight: how they started the game, how they were hungry and winning challenges that we didn’t.
“And that’s not tactics: that’s belief, determination, character and mentality.
Benik Afobe has now scored 4 goals from 5 shots on target in the Premier League since joining Bournemouth. pic.twitter.com/SREguYllcy
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 1, 2016
“They were fighting for their lives and we were trying to win the game, and that was the difference.
“All the 10 (outfield players) on the pitch will recognise that they lost more of the battles.
“After the change we made, we had more control in the game.
“We had more ball possession in the second half but we didn’t create really big chances.
“It’s not good enough. It’s always disappointing if the opponent is hungrier than your team.”
Koeman confirmed Charlie Austin suffered a hamstring injury and will miss “several weeks”, while Shane Long received a kick to the knee and is not expected to be sidelined for long.