Martin O'Neill is "worried" about the immediate future for Aston Villa and admitted that the 1-0 defeat to Bolton Wanderers on Saturday made him feel worse than at any point since he took over as manager five months ago.
With matches against Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea to come over the holiday period, Villa could find themselves in the bottom half of the Premiership table in the New Year.
Villa produced perhaps their best performance of the season but lost to Bolton through a late, debatable, penalty by Gary Speed. The match was watched by only 27,450 spectators.
"It is probably the worst I felt since I came here," O'Neill said. "We were beaten in our previous home game by Manchester City and had not played well enough in the first half.
"We asked too much of ourselves in the second half. Here, we picked up the game immediately, we were on the front foot for all of the game and we have got done. It is particularly galling and particularly disappointing.
"There will be some things that will annoy or irritate you during the game but, overall, I had nothing but praise for the team. They put everything into the game and we had created a number of chances to have won three games."
A natural pessimist, O'Neill is not optimistic for the next few weeks, even with the flexibility of the transfer window during January. The talk of European football, admittedly not perpetuated by O'Neill, seems inappropriate now.
Villa have not won for five weeks, since they defeated Everton early last month and have drawn ten matches this season.
Optimism is clearly on the wane and only a couple of decent transfers will bring back the hope of autumn. It would be premature to suggest that Villa are in crisis - they are, after all, in eighth position and did play well here - but the need for changes and improvement is great.
"I am worried," O'Neill said. "But I've been worried since the start of the season. This is the situation we find ourselves in. We've only been able to add Stiliyan Petrov to the team in terms of buying anyone.
"It was always going to be difficult. I've been worried, even when we won at Everton. I always get worried, but it's my job to worry and this defeat doesn't change anything.
"I thought we had the opportunity, if we played well and defended stoutly, to win it. We played well and, funnily enough, the set pieces which we didn't deal with too cleverly at Sheffield United last Monday, we dealt with them more than adequately.
"We also had more than enough chances to win the game. We should have had three more points and there are some tough fixtures to come, but we knew that."
After physical matches against Sheffield and Bolton, perhaps it will come as a relief when Villa play at home to Manchester United. At least United keep the ball on the floor.
"Manchester United will be coming here to win the game and they are a splendid football side," O'Neill said. "But I am not here to criticise the method of teams playing against us. That's the way it is.
"We have to overcome that and we have to battle for points and, in the three games since Manchester City, we have played splendidly.
"Portsmouth was a really exciting game and against Sheffield United, we were outstanding in the first half and should have been beyond them at half-time; in this game, we have created chances and haven't scored and that is disappointing. There are a number of teams around in the Premier League who have a different style of play to us and it's within the rules. If you play within the rules, that's fine.
"You have to figure out ways to try and beat teams and in recent weeks, we haven't been successful at doing that, but we have played very well.
"We have not been able to secure all three points in games, we have let leads slip and we've had to fight back and we've been beaten. No wins in six but it's three defeats in 18.
"The fact is we should have had more points to show for our efforts, especially since the Manchester City game.
"We haven't got a strong enough squad and, outside Olof Mellberg and a couple of others, we have a very young side but they are showing a great willingness and ability.
"But we do need strengthening for every single reason under the sun."