Boss Ralph Hasenhuttl believes tough love is the best way for Southampton to recover from their slump.
The Saints go to Wolves in the FA Cup fifth round on Thursday smarting from their recent wretched run.
They have lost their last five Premier League games, including last week’s 9-0 defeat at Manchester United.
But Hasenhuttl feels his players can handle the criticism as they look to end the slide.
He said: “You have to show the players and I think they can take it. I was very critical to them this week and I know that they can take it and I hope that we all find the way back to better results.
“I’m a person who immediately tells the players it’s not about luck. We must always take care to work on our game and make sure we affect them in every possible way.
“You can see if somebody is not working hard enough and they need to do better. It’s also clear that some parts of our game are not at 100 per cent.
“But when you watch our last game against Wolves, it was a free, self-confident team unbeaten in seven games before and you can see a difference, which is normal.
“It is the same team now, but with more players coming back and more options on the pitch, hopefully the quality will follow.
“We must climb back to the way we have played earlier in the season and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t do it.
“The last thing we should be moaning about is how unlucky we’ve been or refereeing decisions. That has never been a topic I agree with and it will never be as long as I am sitting here.”
Alex McCarthy has conceded 18 during the Saints’ awful run, with his last clean sheet coming against West Ham in December.
It has been a chastening time for the 31-year-old, but Hasenhuttl feels the goalkeeper needs to push through it.
He said: “I’ve not reassured him because I didn’t have the feeling it was necessary. I have someone (Andrew Sparkes, goalkeeping coach) who speaks about things with him and gives him advice for the future.
“There has been a big development in his game this season, but the line is not always going straight up. There are moments when it goes through a valley and you have to work through them, but this is normal in sport.”