5 Mar 2014 22:47
Everton currently lie sixth and are guaranteed European football if they finish there
Everton’s Gerard Deulofeu celebrates scoring against Arsenal
Roberto Martinez has a message for Everton FC’s top four doubters – “We’re not giving up.”
The Blues have largely been written out of the race for the final Champions League qualifying slot, after a run of results which saw them fall nine points behind current fourth-placed club Manchester City.
Everton are sixth and their hopes of European football next term have been boosted by City’s Capital One Cup triumph last weekend, which means the team that clinches sixth spot in the Premier League will earn a place in the Europa League providing Manuel Pellegrini’s side finish in the top five.
But while holding on to their present position could potentially earn the Toffees a European run for the first time since 2009/10, Martinez is adamant he wants his side to aim as high up the table as possible.
He said: “The gap is not insurmountable. We have a game in hand and we look at it as the start of a mini league of 12 games and we need to get as many points as we can. The group is the strongest we’ve been this season.
“I think we’re going to be very strong finishing the season. We’ve never had it in our aims to finish sixth.
“Obviously when the season finishes, you sit down, see where you are in the table and see where that leaves you. But I would never look at this season as one where we’re trying to fight for sixth position.
“We are sixth now and over the season it’s about as low as we’ve been. In terms of results, I don’t think the table reflects the season we’ve had. We’ve had a game postponed and, among others, we’ve had two results recently (Tottenham and Chelsea) that didn’t match the performances.
“You always get ups and downs in a season of 10 months, and with the amount of players we’ve been missing lately combined with playing well in some games but not getting results it has made us stronger. So we are aspiring to finish the season as strong as we can and with as many points as we can. I don’t think our aim will be finishing sixth at this present time.”
Before they resume their league campaign against Cardiff City on March 15, the Toffees head to the Emirates stadium for a crunch FA Cup quarter final showdown with Arsenal.
And Martinez was equally bullish in his assessment of Saturday lunch-time’s tie.
His side were full value for their 1-1 draw when they travelled to north London in the league three months ago, but the Blues boss can also call on the know-how gained from a 2-1 win over the Gunners while manager of Wigan Athletic in May 2012.
“It’s important for everyone to go somewhere and have a clear picture of what’s needed,” he said. “The worse thing in football – and probably life – is the unknown.
“The fixture in December gave us all a clear indication of what’s needed if you want to be successful at the Emirates, and I think it’s reaching that level of perfection to which we aspire.
“In the past, when a team has been able to be successful at the Emirates, it’s because they’ve been very clear in what they’re doing and are perfect with it. It’s going to be a fascinating game from every angle you want to look into. We all know Arsenal have been an outstanding team for many years now and this season, apart from the setback they had at the weekend [when they lost at Stoke City], they’ve been very, very consistent.
“Playing at home is a major factor for them and they’re going to try to take advantage of that and bounce back from the weekend. If you wanted to find a bad time to play them, now is probably the moment. But if you want to be successful in any competition, you need to be able to adapt and find a way in the hardest moments. We’re excited about that and we’ll focus on ourselves to try to reach the level of perfection we’ll need to if we want to get through.”
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Everton FC fans survey: Almost six out of 10 say Blues will win FA Cup
Welcome back: Cahill return to England with Australia brings back Blue memories
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