Everton manager Sean Dyche believes a softness has crept into his side’s game that has derailed their bid for Premier League safety.
A 10-match run with just one win has left the 19th-placed Toffees facing the prospect of losing their 69-year top-flight status and Monday’s match against fellow strugglers Leicester has taken on must-win importance.
But Dyche, who took six points from his first three games after replacing Frank Lampard in late January, is confident the kind of performance which saw them beat Premier League leaders Arsenal in his maiden match in charge can be rekindled in time to save them from the drop.
Although the first 25 minutes of Thursday’s match at home to Newcastle may have been encouraging, the lowest scorers in England’s top five divisions – with 25 in 33 games – failed to trouble goalkeeper Nick Pope and their second-half capitulation was hugely damaging to already-fragile confidence.
“We made some strides when we came in but it has softened again and we need to pick it up really quickly as there are five big ones coming, that’s for sure,” Dyche said.
“I don’t use the word worry, it’s realities. I’ve seen it with my own eyes and I saw it against Fulham (where they lost 3-1 having got back on level terms). It’s a correction that needs to be made.
“There’s no point worrying because worrying isn’t going to solve anything, work solves things: work on the training pitch, work with the players. That’s what takes away any problems.
“I think we can do it. A very similar side (to the one which lost to Newcastle) beat Arsenal in my first game so there’s the evidence it can be done.
“It’s bringing back that edge and performance.”
Dyche believes his players have to concentrate on improving the smaller details which have such an effect at both ends of the pitch.
“It is fair to say the thing that gets in the way is the details of what’s going on, the tightness if you’re not doing well,” he added.
“The next one (game) will be a case of saying ‘right lads, a lot of the basic principles of what we are doing are correct but the details are massively important and every detail counts’.
“Every time you get into the box you have to believe you are going to score a goal. Those are the details which are going to get you a win.
“There is only so much we can change. There’s a format here that can work, it’s proven to work. We need a sharpness to that performance.”
Dyche urged his side to embrace the pressure of Monday’s crucial match.
“Whatever game it is my mindset is to take it on, that’s what I learned as a player, regardless of it being a big game or a small game,” he said.