Roberto Mancini expects his Manchester City players to take responsibility for their 3-1 defeat at Southampton on Saturday.
Mancini conceded the Premier League title race was all but over after the result, which was compounded by Manchester United's 2-0 victory over Everton 24 hours later. United now sit 12 points clear atop the standings, but Mancini has called on his charges to respond.
"When you play football and you are a top player, you should take your responsibility, always," he said. "It's not always the fault of the manager.
"The players should take responsibility - if they have big balls. If not, they can't play in a top team."
The defending Premier League champions also struggled in the Champions League this term, finishing bottom of their group. But Mancini insists he was expecting a tough campaign, particularly after their title-winning feats in recent years.
"For a team like us which has won the title, won the FA Cup, won the Charity Shield after 38 years, it's normal the year after as champions could be difficult," Mancini explained.
"But probably because we did some mistakes in the summer and we didn't improve our team. But now we have good players and I think we shouldn't do a match like this."
Asked if he regretted not making better signings in the summer, he said: "No, no, now we can do nothing about that.
"But in this moment we should do more because we have 12 games, we should get the maximum points we can get, we have the FA Cup and this season is not finished.
"I don't want to see a player like we saw. A player who plays like that should stay at home, not even be on the pitch. Usually, we play well and even when we don't play well we put everything on the pitch but we didn't even for that.
"That's the problem. Only this. They played better than us, they deserved to win, congratulations to Mauricio Pochettino, to Southampton, but I am very disappointed with our performance."