David Unsworth is refusing to accept claims Everton are in a relegation battle despite seeing the Toffees hammered at Southampton on Sunday.
Everton have now lost eight of their last 11 games in all competitions and the 4-1 defeat at St Mary’s leaves them just two points outside the Premier League bottom three.
Dusan Tadic gave Southampton the lead with a deft finish, with Gylfi Sigurdsson giving the visitors some hope with a stunning equaliser on the stroke of half-time. That hope was soon extinguished as Charlie Austin headed home twice in six minutes, with Steven Davis adding a fourth late on.
Everton have not improved under caretaker boss Unsworth after sacking Ronald Koeman over a month ago. They now have the worst defensive record in the top-flight, conceding 28 in 13 games, but Unsworth feels talk of a fight for survival remains premature.
“I wouldn’t go that far so early,” he said when asked if Everton were embroiled in the relegation battle. “I think we are in a tough moment, I think we have a massive week ahead of us. If you ask me that question next week I can give you a more honest view.
“If the players didn’t know they were in a tough situation they must do now. It is a massive week for the club.”
Fellow strugglers West Ham, now managed by former Everton boss David Moyes, are the visitors to Goodison Park on Wednesday. Unsworth has suggested the club may need to bring in new signings in January, despite spending big in the summer to land the likes of Sigurdsson, Jordan Pickford and Michael Keane.