If Saints have so far refused to press the panic button, there must be fingers starting to hover over it now.

Saints may have struggled for a while, but the Boxing Day hammering by Tottenham at Wembley has sounded alarm bells.

The result was messy, but forget that for a moment. The performance was poor, but put that to one side for now. It was the attitude that really caused the most concern.

Saints looked a beaten side for all but fleeting moments from virtually the start of the game until the point the destination of the three points had already slipped away at Tottenham.

They showed precious little fight and desire when it mattered, character or belief that they ever thought they were going to get anything from when they still had a chance to do so.

That then filters into performance, to not finding that extra bit of effort to close down, that mental discipline to hold your position and shape, that resilience to keep plugging away.

You make mistakes, you are out fought, and against good teams, which Spurs are, you get punished. And how.

Make no mistake, based on what was evidenced at Tottenham, even more so than points and results, Saints are in trouble.

And while there are some very poor teams around this season, if Saints continue to play like this, and given the fixture list they have in the second half of the campaign too, then they will be rolling the dice.

Much focus is on manager Mauricio Pellegrino. He needs to get a grip of this situation.

For Saints to get rid of a second manager in virtually half a year would seem almost unthinkable, especially for Les Reed and Ralph Krueger. Also there would be the question of exactly who would come now too.

But this is a results game. Pellegrino knows that.

Saints need to take a stronger line on Virgil van Dijk too, get rid as soon as the window reopens if that is, as it seems, where this is heading, and bring in proven quality – not gambles – and try and dig themselves out of this situation.

They just can’t afford more games like this one, or the downward momentum may become unstoppable.

Tottenham were knocking on the door from very early in the game, and never really stopped.

Dele Allie’s pass outside to Christian Eriksen allowed him to slide in a low cross that was met at the near post by Harry Kane, who found the side netting.

Eric Dier’s shot forced a save from Fraser Forster while Alli’s first time side footed volley went over.

However, the Saints rear-guard action was breached on 22 minutes.

Saints had breathed a sigh of relief as Graham Scott made the correct decision in awarding a free kick rather than a penalty to Spurs as Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg brought down Danny Rose as he was just inches away from entering the box on the left side.

That was short lived though as Eriksen’s inswinging corner found Kane, who had got into space with embarrassing ease, and had possibly the least taxing finish of his record breaking Premier League calendar year haul, heading in from a couple of yards out.

Saints almost equalised moments later in bizarre Fashion.

Hugo Lloris parried a shot from Sofiane Boufal but was almost beaten by his own man, Danny Rose, whose attempted cushioned header back to his stopper was far too high.

Lloris just got his fingertips to the ball and had to scramble back to just keep it out, via the inside of the post.

That was pretty much as close as Saints came in the first half, and they found themselves further behind at the break with another painful goal to concede.

Saints got horribly pulled out of position by Tottenham, and it all ended predictably enough.

Alli fed the ball to Heung-Min Son on the left and he centred low into a space that had been vacated, leaving Kane to slide the ball home from just inside the six yard box.

Saints opened the second period with a flicker of fight.

However, when Shane Long was inadvertently sent through by an awful Spurs pass his lack of confidence shone bright as he managed to fire his shot against his standing leg and it was easy for Lloris.

The Spurs keeper was beaten when Mario Lemina cut across the face of the area and hit a left footed shot but it struck the top of the bar.

With those chances having been and gone in the space of a couple of minutes, Spurs wrapped up the three points with two quickfire goals.

Alli was able to come inside unchallenged and curled a right footed shot into the far corner from just outside the area for 3-0.

It was 4-0 when Nathan Redmond’s misplaced pass set Alli away on the counter attack. It was all too easy as his simple pass found Son, who finished across Forster.

Saints got on themselves on the scoresheet twice.

Boufal’s slightly deflected drive beat Lloris at the near post while sub Dusan Tadic took advantage of a poor punch away from the Spurs stopper and lobbed a good shot back into the net.

In the middle, though, Spurs had grabbed a fifth, and Kane a hat-trick, as Saints failed to defend a throw-in and then allowed Alli to play in the prolific striker.

This needs to be the low point of the season. If it’s not then troubled days lay ahead.