Mild-mannered West Ham manager Slaven Bilic is always playing down expectations and talking up opponents. His softly-spoken tones naturally shy away from hyperbole.
It had begun to sound like false modesty with West Ham comfortably in the top four but the defeat at Watford reminded fans that this is the Premier League – all hard slog and cruel twists.
That defeat , says the Croatian, will be a valuable lesson on the road to further success which he hopes will begin against a solid Everton side at the Boleyn Ground on Saturday (November 7, 3pm). He needs his team to stay alert – and hungry.
He said: “All last week [after the Chelsea game] I spent more time talking about how we should stay grounded but we didn’t have that 5% in the red zone and if you are like that and unlucky then you have no chance.”
The side, he suggested, were not as street smart as they had been against blue chip opponents like Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal, where they picked up a remarkable nine points.
He told the club’s website : “We showed that we can play against so-called lesser opposition like Palace, Newcastle and parts of the games against Sunderland, Bournemouth and Leicester.
“Those teams do the ‘dirty work’ better than the big teams so you have to work more against them than you do against someone like Manchester City.
“Manchester City will beat you with class but someone like Watford are better at the ‘dirty work’ than them so you need to match them and that is something we did not do on Saturday.
“When they smelt that we were not penetrating them enough and a lot of our movement and passing was backwards then they smelt the opportunity to come up and go with us.
“But we have learnt that lesson now and I see no reason why we should not come back the way we played before. Number one thing we have to do is run together as a team, do the dirty work and win second balls. If we are like that then we have a chance against any team.”
Everton on a high
Everton will come to east London on a high after putting six past Sunderland, managed by West Ham old boy Sam Allardyce. Manager Robert Martinez wants the Toffees to maintain their “ruthless” streak which has taken them to eighth in the league despite a less-than-convincing defence.
Martinez singled out Barcelona loanee Deulofeu as a “special talent” in a blue shirt. The 21-year-old has been involved in six of Everton’s 19 goals this term, netting his first in the league against the Black Cats.
“He is still a young man but to see him performing the way he did, three games in a week, shows you how far he has come and how settled he looks – and what a special talent we have in our squad,” Martinez told the club’s website .