John Heitinga admits Everton are finding it increasingly difficult to compete with English football's elite.
The Toffees remain a stable Premier League outfit, but a lack of investment has seen them stand still while those around them have pushed on.
They are now struggling to compete with the biggest sides in the country, with Manchester United's 1-0 victory at Goodison Park on Saturday meaning David Moyes' men have lost to four title hopefuls already this term - with Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea having already prevailed over the Toffees.
Last season, Everton collected eight points from the equivalent fixtures and fancied their chances against any visitors to Merseyside.
A failure to bring in fresh faces over the summer, while others headed for the exits, means the Toffees are now less of a force than they were this time 12 months ago.
Dutch defender Heitinga admitted to the Liverpool Echo: "You have to be realistic, and the top four is better than the rest at the moment. At the moment the gap seems wider.
"Last season and two seasons ago we would beat all the big teams here (Goodison Park), and so far we haven't got one point against the big sides.
"So it's for us to fight a little bit harder, and we'll see what's going to happen in the future."