Eddie Howe has warned his Bournemouth players against believing they are safe from relegation after fearing they have been influenced by “outside noise”.
The Cherries host Manchester United on Wednesday still in contention for a top-10 finish and with six teams and 10 points separating them from the bottom three.
Following last month’s 2-1 victory over West Brom the perception grew that their Premier League status was secure, and that they have since drawn twice and most recently lost to Liverpool has contributed to Howe becoming concerned his squad has relaxed.
Last season’s ninth-placed finish and total of 46 points was Bournemouth’s highest in English football.
They can yet set a new club record for the third successive year, and Howe said: “After the West Brom game everyone had us down as safe, in the media, and no matter how much I bang on to the players about certain things, that will seep into the subconscious.
“We’ve had it before in both seasons, where people hit a level and think that’s you done and you just lose an edge to your performance.
“It’s one of the most frustrating things I’ve had to deal with in the Premier League because it doesn’t matter to me whether we’re safe or not safe; the principle is that you give your best in every game.
“You can’t take your foot off the pedal for a second in this league because you get punished. A lot of outside noise will get through to the players and I understand it, but we have to have a better mentality than that to make sure it doesn’t affect us.”
Howe is without Junior Stanislas and Adam Smith, both owing to knee injuries, but even if United rotate their team ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham he is wary of the threat they pose.
Should Bournemouth lose and results elsewhere not favour them, they could fall from 11th to 14th by the end of the week, and boss Howe added: “You can see down the bottom of the league how tight it is, with everyone scrambling to get above the 40-point mark.
“One or two disappointing results and you can tumble down the league; from our perspective we’ve been consistent in our league position for a while, due to our form and being difficult to beat, we’ve been picking up points all the way through, and we don’t want to lose that position.
“When you’ve worked so hard, you’ve got to finish the season off properly.
“The quality has been higher than it has ever been, so when you see that Manchester United are second they have to see that as a really good season and progression for them.
“They will feel like they are going in the right direction; their season has been a big success.”