MELBOURNE has become "easy to play against", Demons coach Simon Goodwin concedes.
After riding a wave of emotion to a preliminary final last year, Melbourne was expected to launch an even stronger challenge for the club's first premiership since 1964, but it has plummeted to 1-4 after suffering a 40-point hammering from St Kilda at the MCG on Saturday.
A frustrated Goodwin laid bare the Demons' issues against the Saints, including an uncharacteristic lack of desire around stoppages, a lack of work rate and a poor midfield/forward connection.
Melbourne easily led the inside 50s at half-time (27-17) and at full-time (55-47) but kicked eight fewer goals than St Kilda.
The Dees led by three points midway through the second quarter before conceding the next eight goals and an impregnable 45-point deficit by the final change.
Despite having just a four-day break before returning to the MCG for their Anzac Day eve clash with Richmond on Wednesday night, Goodwin remained "confident" his team would produce a "really good" performance and eventually get its season back on track.
"We're easy to play against," Goodwin said in his post-match press conference.
"We're still getting some supply but we're getting beaten in transition way too easy (and) we're not connecting with the ball forward of centre.
"I thought we were a bit better last week, but we're just easy to play against and that's making it really challenging.
"There's a lot of little things going wrong in our game at the moment and that's making it really challenging to play the way we want to play. We're breaking down in a few too many areas. That means we're easy to play against and the scoreboard pressure builds.
"We had opportunities in that first half to really put some scoreboard pressure on, we were unable to do it, and in the end the Saints' hunger and work rate in the second half was well above ours."
The Demons had made some adjustments to their defensive mechanisms before taking on Sydney at the SCG, resulting in their first win of the season, but Goodwin said the same downward trends reappeared against the Saints.
"They're going from one end of the ground to the other way too easily. That's one of our bigger challenges," he said.
Another is their kicking into attack.
"We had lots of opportunities where our fundamentals forward of centre let us down. Our method from the back half was pretty good but we just got let down by our inside 50 kicks. Too often they didn't hit (their target), or we got beaten or we didn't mark the ball," Goodwin said.
The Demons coach admitted it had been a frustrating time for all.
"That frustration and disappointment builds. It builds in coaches, it builds in players, it builds in you as a club. But what we can't afford to do is let that frustration and disappointment start to affect the way we play," he said.
"I felt in the second half some of our contest work dropped away, our clearance work, we got out-hunted around the footy. That's what we've got to keep working on. If we make a mistake, let's just get back in and mop it up."
He believes the short turnaround between games could be "a good thing" because some issues can be fixed "relatively quickly".
"If we connect a bit better with the ball, if we hunt a bit more around contest areas, it'll go a long way toward bridging that scoreboard gap. I'm confident the boys and the club will rally in the next four days and put up a really good performance," Goodwin said.
He said a record of 1-4 was "not pretty" but he holds out hope given the season is just five rounds old.
"We need to just keep working hard and the wheel will turn and we'll get ourselves going," he said.