Mark Hughes was left rueing “the key moments” at the Emirates Stadium but was enthused by what he saw from his Saints players in defeat to Arsenal on Sunday.
A brace from Danny Welbeck – the first, a heavily deflected effort past Alex McCarthy, the second a late back-post header – cancelled out strikes from Shane Long and Charlie Austin to taint what had looked to be a positive afternoon for the Welshman’s team.
"Apart from the key moments which led to goals, I thought our performance was good,” he said.
"Once we were behind, we had to show a lot of character and I was pleased by what I saw. I wanted to see that kind of performance and that was the main thing for me. It was encouraging, that contrast in what we produced at West Ham and what we did today.”
“I felt we needed to be solid after conceding too early in the last two games and we were for the most part. We were resolute and when we did break we attacked with good effect, showing a good understanding of what we had worked on during the week.”
The positives to be taken into the visit of Chelsea next week for Hughes will surely be Saints’ improved attacking performance.
Defending deep and springing Shane Long in behind as quickly as possible, the visitors’ approach yielding a deserved opening goal through the tireless Long – given a standing ovation when replaced by Josh Sims – and a well-taken Charlie Austin tap-in which had temporarily levelled the scores at 2-2.
“We broke with good effect behind Longy, creating some good chances and scoring one of them in the first half. I think we were good value at 1-0 even if Arsenal had a lot of possession, it was all in front of us and they didn’t really have much of a look in.
“Our approach to the game initially didn’t suit Charlie but it was always my intention to bring him off the bench.
"We went for Shane because he’s the best at stretching the play and working backwards but with Charlie you know he will get scoring chances, he comes alive in the box.”