Everton manager Rafael Benitez is trusting in his vast experience to arrest his side’s worrying slide but he has warned fans the pain could last until the new year.
No win in eight Premier League matches has ramped up the pressure on the former Liverpool boss, with Everton supporters turning their anger on the board and director of football Marcel Brands after the midweek Merseyside derby defeat at home. Meanwhile, numerous names have recently cropped up to replace Benitez.
Heading into a month which includes fixtures against Arsenal, on Monday, Chelsea and Leicester plus a trip to Burnley – and with main striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin unlikely to return from a thigh injury for at least another fortnight – things could get worse before they get better.
“I have experience in situations like these, to fight for titles and to try to avoid relegation and my experience is telling me to stay calm, to keep working hard, to try to correct the mistakes, then keep going,” said Benitez.
“What we want is to stick together because that is crucial. It is a frustrating time for us, but we have to keep going and work really hard.
“When you are in a bad run, every game feels ‘must win’.
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“I am positive and still have the belief we will do well because we did it at the beginning of the season.
“I said a lot of times that we will do well in the second part.
“Now is a time for us to stick together and try to go to January in the best possible position.”
Benitez emphasises defensive solidarity
Everton have kept just three clean sheets all season, the last a month ago, and with their situation up front – Demarai Gray’s goal on Wednesday was their first since November 1 – Benitez knows they have to tighten up.
“You have to do the basic things well, then, little by little, we can build on that,” he added.
“We have to be solid and strong and defend and work as a unit. After, if you get one or two results, we will have more confidence and it will be easier.
“The team were really strong at the beginning of the season. We had a solid defensive unit and played good counter-attacking football.
“We need to go back to those principles and not make mistakes which will allow teams the chance to punish us.”
Benitez also urged his players to follow the example set by captain Seamus Coleman, whom he admits he felt sorry for after his mistake allowed Liverpool to score the crucial third goal in Wednesday night’s 4-1 win.
Sympathy for Coleman
“Seamus was desperate to do well and was pushing the team in the last weeks to be sure everyone is giving everything and he was the first one to give everything and then he made a mistake and he was so sorry,” said the Spaniard.
“I was sorry because when you have someone so professional and wants to do so well for his club, to make this kind of mistake is just even worse for him and us.
“Then it is to support him, which we did straight away and be sure the rest of the players copy the example in terms of mentality, approach and hard work which he is doing every day.
“When something is wrong, it is really important to show character and stay calm.
“When you are under pressure and anxiety is there, you make more mistakes.
“Stay calm and keep working, work harder, if possible. That is what I am trying to do with my staff and it is the message for the players.”