Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl wants his side to get “hungry” in front of goal just like Premier League leaders Manchester City and push up the table again.
The Saints were beaten 5-2 by City on Wednesday night, but had opened the match brightly and paid a heavy price for not making the most of their positivity.
In contrast, City shrugged off a slow start to take the lead from their first serious attack and never looked back.
Southampton host Brighton on Sunday, when they will face a team fighting for survival rather than one looking set to sweep to the title.
Hasenhuttl feels if his players can sharpen up their focus in the opposition box, then they can start to make life much more comfortable.
“The difference is the quality in the final third, how hungry they are to score,” the Southampton manager said about City’s frontline.
“When you see the first goal we conceded, we also play these balls into the box very often, we also have this first touch and bring the ball into the centre.
“The difference with them is that then there are three players (in the penalty area).
“With shots on the goal, if the goalkeeper makes a save, then it is the second (Man City) one who brings it into the back of the net, this is the difference.
“They are so hungry to go there, that maybe is the difference and this is quality yes, but this is also hunger to be successful.”
After tackling Brighton, the Saints head to Bournemouth looking to reach the FA Cup semi-finals before the international break.
When they return to action, there will be home games against Burnley and Crystal Palace ahead, with a trip to struggling West Brom in between.
Hasenhuttl, though, rejected suggestions this was now a defining period for his team which had briefly topped the table in early November but have plummeted down the league in 2021.
“For me, every month is decisive to be honest, because when you do not take points consistently, then you find yourself in a very tough situation,” said Hasenhuttl, whose side have lost nine out of the past 11 league games.
“We had a good period in the beginning of the season with the best possible team available for a few months, then you can see what we can achieve.
“We have also seen a time in this season where we were really struggling to take any points.
“Everything is possible in the Premier League and this is the reason why you can never say: ‘okay now is the decisive one, the upcoming games are the most important ones’ – they are always important.”
While Saints at least have some daylight between themselves and the bottom three, Brighton head into the weekend’s fixtures out of the relegation zone only on goal difference.
Hasenhuttl said: “Brighton have had the same issues as we have had, playing better and not getting what you maybe should get, because the opponents have so much quality and can kill you in one or two moments.
“When they have a good run, they can beat every team, but when they have a bit of problems with injury, like they have at the moment, it is more difficult.
“But we have a tough game. They are a team who do not give you a lot of chances and are well organised.”