Roberto Martinez admits Everton cannot afford to perform without intensity after their six-game unbeaten run came to a shuddering halt at Aston Villa.
The Blues paid the price for a sub-par first-half performance as they slumped to a 3-2 defeat in the Midlands, a result which leaves them marooned in 11th place in the Premier League table.
Martinez’s side had entered the game as the form side in the division, but delivered only a flat performance, lacking tempo, energy and conviction.
And the Catalan says they can ill afford another afternoon like this when Sunderland visit Goodison Park next weekend.
He said: “The ambitions for us are to perform like we did in the second half, We just can’t afford to perform with the lack of intensity we did in the first half again.
“We were in the middle of a good run, to get 16 out of 18 points was great but now we want to make sure we pout this result to bed and focus on an important game against Sunderland.
“Not fighting relegation and not fighting to get into the Champions League doesn’t mean that every point doesn’t matter. Our final points tally has a lot of meaning towards what we want to achieve.”
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“It wasn’t just the defenders”
Martinez added: “It was a total below-par performance. It wasn’t just the defenders, it was an approach. We didn’t have the intensity, we didn’t keep the ball well enough, and we didn’t create enough threat or get into the final third enough. The whole performance wasn’t up to the level we expect.”
Everton were punished twice by Christian Benteke in the opening 45 minutes, and though they improved significantly after the break, they were unable to drag something out of the game, against a side haunted by fears of relegation.
Martinez said: “It’s fair to say Villa were really strong in the first half and that two-nil lead gave them the advantage even if after the second half overall the game was pretty level.
“You’re not always going to play well in a game for 90 minutes but you need to get through those periods. It’s important that when you’re not at your best you don’t concede goals. You can’t always be perfect. But the two-goal lead we gave them was excessive and we need to learn from it.
“In the first half we were really slow to react. We didnt have the strong intensity to our normal play and in the second half we realised we had to step up our tempo and everything we did off the ball.
“The first half cost us too much. The performance against Manchester United was so impressive, the intensity and the occasion, that I did fear that maybe it would be difficult to start the game with the same excitement. That’s why we made changes to try and spark things.
“But even when you’re not at your best you shouldn’t concede two goals like we did. You need to be very aware of crosses to Benteke when you’re playing Villa and the first time it happened it ends up in the back of the net.
Then the dead-ball situation before the end of the half is too painful.”