Everton caretaker manager David Unsworth insists the club are not in a relegation battle, despite them being just two points above the Premier League drop zone.
The Toffees are currently 16th in the Premier League table after losing 4-1 to Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium on Sunday.
Unsworth has now lost five of his seven matches in caretaker charge, increasing the pressure on the club’s owners to appoint a permanent manager as soon as possible.
The club have been searching for a new boss since Ronald Koeman was sacked last month, Watford manager Marco Silva had emerged as the Toffees’ prime target for the role, but their Premier League rivals are refusing to let him go.
After their latest defeat against Southampton, who had only scored nine Premier League goals all season before the game, Unsworth was asked if the club were in a relegation battle.
“I wouldn’t go that far so early,” said the caretaker boss, as quoted by the Daily Mail.
“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.”
Everton now face back-to-back home games against teams in the bottom-half of the Premier League table.
Former Everton manager David Moyes will return to Goodison Park with his new club West Ham on Wednesday evening, before the visit of newly-promoted Huddersfield Town.
Unsworth said the players know the significance of the week ahead.
“If the players didn’t know they were in a tough situation they must do now. It is a massive week for the club,” said the interim boss.
“This group of players is underperforming, whether it is Ronald in charge or me in charge it isn’t working.”
The Toffees now have the worst defensive record in the Premier League this season having conceded 28 goals in just 13 games.
In other Everton news, West Ham boss Moyes delivered this message to the club ahead of his return to Goodison Park.