Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti will turn his attention to solving his side’s defensive problems during the international break as he seeks to arrest their slide.
Having reeled off seven-successive victories in all competitions to register the club’s best start to a season in more than a century, one point from four matches has seen them surrender top spot in the Premier League.
Ancelotti was deeply unhappy with the defending in Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at home to Manchester United, especially after taking an early lead through Bernard, as Bruno Fernandes was given far too much space to score twice before teeing up Edinson Cavani in a second-half added-time breakaway.
The gamble of throwing Mason Holgate – fit for the first time after a pre-season foot injury – straight into the team at the expense of Yerry Mina did not pay off with the gap between him and fellow centre-back Michael Keane exploited for the visitors’ first two goals.
“We have to focus on this, on the defensive aspect,” said the Italian, who personally lost three league matches in a row for the first time since he was in charge of AC Milan in 2006.
“We have to work more on this because in the last few games we conceded too many goals (11 in the last five) and this cannot happen.
“If you want to win games you have to be able to keep clean sheets because you cannot score three or four goals to win games.
“It is different territory for me but I know how to manage the difficulties.
“Every year, you have difficulties to manage – and this is the moment we have to manage difficulties.
“I hope after the international break we have players back without injuries to start again because this season is not finished.
“We started the season well. We had this bad moment and we have to be focused.”