Carlo Ancelotti is prepared to take a tougher line with his players to erase the type of slow start that cost Everton dear against Aston Villa on Saturday.
Manager Ancelotti confessed he’d expected his side to pick up where they left off in a professional display to win at Arsenal the previous week.
The Italian was deeply frustrated, then, to suffer another home setback, which saw Everton’s top-six chances recede.
There remains time to make up ground, nonetheless, and Ancelotti is confident of having James Rodriguez back for Sunday’s visit to West Ham United.
The influential James was withdrawn from the team to face Villa as a precaution after being bothered by a calf issue in the warm-up.
Ancelotti wasn’t willing to hide behind that blow, conceding Everton fell short of his expectations at Goodison Park.
“It is difficult to say why [performance was below par], it was the same team that played with strong attitude at Arsenal,” Ancelotti told evertontv.
“The momentum was good, the training was good.
“It seemed the players were focused but not tonight [Saturday], they were not focused and, maybe, I need to push more on that aspect to have the players more ready when the game starts.
“James didn’t have a big problem but we didn’t want to take a risk.
“He could maybe do better [improve overall performance] and we had individual mistakes but it was a team mistake in this game.”
James “is going to play the next game”, confirmed Ancelotti, who had complimentary words for Jordan Pickford, following a fabulous performance from the goalkeeper, and scorer Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who reached 20 goals for the campaign.
“Jordan did his job – maybe some performances were good,” said Ancelotti.
“What was not good was the teamwork and the team performance.
“Dominic scored a goal but was not happy because we lost.
“This is the attitude we have to show, it doesn’t matter if you score a goal.
“The performance was not good and we lost an opportunity to stay in the fight [for European qualification], with more possibility.
“Now we have less possibility but, fortunately, we are still in the fight.”
That fight continues in east London at the weekend, when Everton can close the gap on fifth-placed West Ham to three points.
Tottenham Hotspur in sixth, the final Europa League qualifying spot, hold a four-point advantage over Everton but have played a game more.
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HIGHLIGHTS: ASTON VILLA 0-0 EVERTON
Ancelotti was irked by his team missing the chance to get right on those teams’ shoulders, then, particularly as this was another opportunity passed up at Goodison.
They have two home games remaining – against Sheffield United and Wolverhampton Wanderers – and the objective is to win both, while sustaining the tremendous away form that has seen Everton win 10 games and counting on the road.
“This team was up and down,” added Ancelotti.
“We had good performances and fantastic results away.
“At home, maybe we are more comfortable and miss a little bit of concentration and a little bit of focus.
“I am frustrated because the game [against Villa] was not good, we didn’t start well, we didn’t show the attitude and spirit this kind of game needed.
“It was a vital game, an important game for us to keep fighting for Europe and we lost this opportunity.
“Fortunately for us, it is not the last opportunity, we have five more opportunities.
“But we have to show a different attitude at the beginning.
“At the beginning we conceded a lot of opportunities because we didn’t have balance, we missed easy passes and lost a lot of duels.
“Honestly, I am frustrated.”