If Ralph Hasenhuttl had any doubts over the issues he is going to have to solve as Saints manager then they will most certainly have been removed by a chastening defeat at Cardiff.

Hasenhuttl’s appointment generated a wave of positivity that swept across St Mary’s this week.

His plan, his ambition, his manner - all of it was great.

But the major problem was always likely to be the same.

You can hire the best manager in the world but, ultimately, they are only going to be as good as the squad they have. The players will be their limiter.

Some managers can find a way of galvanizing a disparate group and making them greater than the sum of their parts, but that is pretty rare.

More often teams perform, and get results, you come to expect, and deserve.

And it is all the harder for a manager to inspire a sudden rise in results when they take a over a struggling team in the middle of the season.

Add to that the fact that the problems at Saints are now about two years in the brewing. This is not just a blip but rather a trajectory.

Once more it was a hugely costly individual error that did for Saints.

Wesley Hoedt’s demotion from the team was widely celebrated by some Saints fans who felt Mark Hughes’ refusal to chop him earlier was a reason he should go.

Jannik Vestergaard has come in and made mistakes against Manchester United and Cardiff that have cost goals and points.

It is unfair to point the finger at one person, there are individual errors being made all over the pitch, but it underlines the problem facing Hasenhuttl.

There has been little stability in the team selection at Saints because players have struggled for form and confidence, made mistakes and therefore been changed. Then the cycle has started again.

There were some encouraging patches of the game at Cardiff, a glimpse into what Hasenhuttl can hopefully bring given time.

At the start of both halves, and particularly the second period, Saints showed intensity and hunger and pressed well, but it dissipated all too soon.

Trying to get players so desperately short of self-belief to have faith in themselves again will be half the battle. To try and instil a way and style of playing will be important, and part of that too.

But with little money likely to be available in January, Hasenhuttl is going to have to turn things around with the players he has.

The issues are now clear for him to see, and they will not be easy to solve.