Roberto Martinez has warned his players to take no notice of the Premier League table when Everton face second-bottom AFC Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday.
An encouraging start to their first top-flight season has unravelled for Eddie Howe’s men, who have lost six times in an eight-game winless streak in all competitions.
Injuries have ravaged the Bournemouth ranks, but Martinez insists the qualities Howe has instilled in his side make the south-coast club a tough proposition, as Swansea City discovered last Saturday, when they found themselves 2-0 down inside 26 minutes before battling back to earn a draw.
“Bournemouth are a team that have been very unfortunate this season,” Martinez told Everton TV.
“To get promoted in the manner that they did was very impressive and created a winning mentality and a winning culture.
“They started in the Premier League with a real swagger and a lot of the good things they produced in the Championship they were starting to produce in the Premier League.
“They got impressive results – none more so than the victory at Upton Park against West Ham – and then they lost two or three very influential players and that made things very difficult.
“But from game to game they’ve been very clear in what they do, they’re a team with a lot of energy, they work extremely hard as a unit and they’re a possession team who control the ball well and want to break teams down.
“Overall, there’s the structure of a very strong team and it’s just finding their feet in this new league. When you get promoted you get that.
“On Saturday, we’ll have to be very much aware of Bournemouth’s strengths, make sure we keep the concentration levels and make sure we can cope with the physicality and energy that they’re going to bring.”
Confidence will be high at Everton following an emphatic 4-0 victory over Aston Villa last weekend, a game in which Romelu Lukaku made it seven goals scored in as many Premier League games.
Martinez, though, will have to make do without the services of Steven Pienaar (hamstring injury), Phil Jagielka (knee), Bryan Oviedo (hamstring) and Tony Hibbert (knee), but Leighton Baines could make his comeback after a spell on the sidelines due to an ankle injury.
Bournemouth, meanwhile, have Christian Atsu (shin), Callum Wilson (knee), Tommy Elphick (ankle), Tyrone Mings (knee) and Max Gradel (knee) all unavailable.
Despite a recent slump in fortunes, Junior Stanislas is optimistic about the home side’s chances.
“Everton are a very good side,” Stanislas told Cherries Player.
“They are probably one of the best attacking teams in the league and have some very good individual players too.
“We’ll have to look after the ball even more than usual because they are quick on the counter, but we’ll go into the game with lots of confidence.”
Key Opta stats:
– Bournemouth and Everton have met three times, all in cup competitions, and the Toffees have won each match.
– All 24 of Everton’s goals this season have been from open play, making them the only side in the Premier League yet to score from a set-piece this season.
– Bournemouth have scored a league-high five goals in the first 15 minutes of their Premier League games this season.
– Since the start of last season, only Cesc Fabregas (20) has provided more assists than Matt Ritchie (19) in the top four tiers of English league football.