Martin: We went into self-preservation mode

Live Matchday Images/2023-24/20240423 Leicester vs Southampton/MW_Leicester_Southampton_142_fyqyte

Russell Martin felt Southampton went into “self-preservation mode” in the latter stages of the 5-0 defeat to Leicester at the King Power Stadium.

The manager was pleased with much of Saints’ work for the first hour of a game in which his side fell behind to Abdul Fatawu’s controversial 25th-minute opener.

The visitors started the second half with good intensity, but after Leicester doubled their lead through Wilfred Ndidi on 62 minutes, the Foxes took advantage of Saints’ sloppiness as Fatawu helped himself to a hat-trick.

“For 60 minutes, I liked us,” Martin said. “First half was cagey, both teams trying to get control, and I felt we got more control than they did – we got braver and better as the half went on. They score a goal that is a foul and it’s offside – at least that’s what I’ve been told.

“We started the second half brilliantly, so good, but our moments when we played through the press didn’t come to enough. They’ve been ruthless and we haven’t.

“Then at 2-0 I saw so much stuff I thought we were beyond as a team and as a group. Nowhere near enough togetherness, fight, willingness to help your team, to defend properly.

“We went into self-preservation mode, which is the worst mistake you can make on a football pitch – to just try to look after yourself and not help your teammates and add value to your team, because you feel that’ll be a way to get through it.

“To concede five goals is just madness, absolute madness. I’m angry, I’m hurt and I feel sorry for the fans who came – they were fantastic, even at the end, still clapping the team off.

“The only option for us now is to make sure we really learn from that. The guys who really care and are hurting about tonight, and want to put tonight right, will be the ones that end up on the pitch, I’m pretty sure.”

Martin felt some of Saints’ problems were a continuation from Saturday’s late loss at Cardiff – a game that should have been put to bed long before the Bluebirds fought back from a goal down.

“Against Cardiff on Saturday, not ruthless enough when it really, really matters – not enough real aggression when it really matters to score. We should’ve scored four or five and we don’t, and unfortunately that carries on tonight in both boxes,” he added.

“It’s not a tactical thing. I’m pretty sure and I’ll get criticised for saying that, but the way the team plays gets us so many chances at Cardiff, gets us to play through the press so aggressive tonight, gets us to steal the ball a lot in the first half in particular and that early bit of the second half.

“I need to question my own mentality with the players, and they need to question theirs for sure, because it’s not acceptable in the last two games what’s happened for the amount of good play they have.

“You can play any way you want – put the ball forward, play second balls, but if you don’t want to fight and run for each other and defend properly, you’re always going to be in trouble.

“I’m sure the style of play will be blamed, but it’s not that. It’s about mentality, it’s about courage, it’s about guts, it’s about adding value to your teammates. That dressing room on Saturday and tonight, not enough of that.”