Blues boss says players have regained focus after Tottenham and Chelsea losses
In-form Everton are back in the hunt for Champions League qualification after learning from the most painful moments of their season, says Roberto Martinez.
The Blues are chasing down fourth-placed Arsenal and welcome the Gunners to Goodison Park on Sunday for a mouth-watering clash.
Everton have won four games on the spin since losing to Arsene Wenger’s men in the FA Cup quarter-final at the beginning of March and are just four points behind his side and with a game in hand.
Everton FC v Fulham at Craven Cottage. Pic by Chris Brunskill/Propaganda
But Martinez believes the Blues have been trying desperately to get their season back on track since before the Cup exit.
Everton lost 1-0 at Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea in February despite playing well and Martinez admits the defeats really knocked them.
“I don’t think it goes down to the Cup game, if I’m honest I think it goes a little bit further than that,” Martinez said.
“We had two outstanding performances against Spurs and Chelsea and couldn’t reflect that in the scoreline.
“It was a real focus of the group to learn from that and a maturity to know how to affect score lines when you play well.
“It’s fair to say in the last five league games we have not been fantastic in every game but we have found a way to be competitive and know what to do during the game and make sure the results have been positive.
“We are delighted with the return of points at this stage of the season and we have another 21 points to fight for.
“And as you saw on Sunday, we are ready to give everything we’ve got.”
Martinez made three telling substitutions in the win over Fulham and says he will rely on the power of his squad to guide Everton through the final seven games of the season.
Steven Naismith replaced Ross Barkley at half-time to breathe life into their flagging attack and the Scot’s goal-bound effort cannoned off Gareth Barry, and then home keeper David Stockdale, before crossing the line.
Fellow subs Aiden McGeady and Kevin Mirallas combined to put the Blues 2-1 ahead before Naismith added a third late on.
“I have huge confidence in this squad,” Martinez said.
“The biggest compliment I could give is that I could pick any 11 from the players in our squad and play the way we want to play and show the concepts we want to have as a team.
“That is down to the standards we have at Finch Farm each day and the experienced players are the real pillars of this group.
“So, I always believe that you are only as good as your squad. The days of relying on 11 players are gone. We have been missing our club captain (Phil Jagielka) for a while now but we have a 19-year-old (John Stones) coming in and showing an incredible arrogance and level of how to play centre-half.”
He added: “I thought Fulham started the game better than us on Sunday and they were very strong and very energetic and they stopped us completely in what we wanted to do on the ball.
“So we had defend and be strong off the ball. We had to dig deep and show real character. I think that’s what we did.
“I did feel it was a big difference us playing three games in eight days and Fulham being able to prepare all week. But we need to give Fulham credit for the way they started the game and put us under massive, massive pressure and we had to defend really, really well.
“But the second half was different and the fresh legs of Steven Naismith, Aiden McGeady and Kevin Mirallas at the right time gave us a different spark and we were the team finish stronger. It was a really open game. They gave everything to get a positive result.
“It is important to keep the forward players fresh. McGeady and Gerard Deulofeu are going to be vital for the rest of the season and we need to make sure we measure the demands well of Romelu Lukaku, Steven Naismith, Ross Barkley, Leon Osman, and Kevin Mirallas. Everyone understands.
“The intensity of every game is important. You need to gain momentum and find focus in the squad.
Football miracles do happen.
“We always embrace the challenge. If we can be perfect in what we do then we have a great chance of getting points.”