Martinez: Focus is the key

Everton's Steven Naismith (second right) celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the FA Cup, Fifth Round match at Goodison Park, Liverpool.
Everton's Steven Naismith (second right) celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the FA Cup, Fifth Round match at Goodison Park, Liverpool.
Share this article

Everton boss Roberto Martinez has reached this stage of the season embroiled in a relegation battle in each of the last four years, but he insists the fact his focus has now flipped to the other end of the table makes no difference.

In three of the past four years, the Spaniard was successful in his attempts to stave off relegation with Wigan - famously winning seven of their final nine games in 2011/12 - but could not manage it last May as the FA Cup-winning exploits took their toll.

Having moved to Goodison Park in the summer, Martinez has guided the club to the brink of Champions League qualification and just a point at Sunderland on Saturday would move them ahead of Arsenal into fourth place.

But the Toffees manager believes fighting for a place in the Barclays Premier League’s top four is no different from a relegation battle as the requirements are essentially identical.

“I think it is exactly the same, if I am completely honest,” he said.

“It is being able to focus on the game itself, understanding the intensity and the focus you need in every action.

“In every season, whatever you are playing for, it comes down to the final points you are playing for: whether it is for staying in the league, making the top four or winning the title it is exactly the same.

“Looking back at other seasons with Wigan, we managed to get seven wins out of the last nine and that is the same intensity you need to have in any aim you are fighting for.”

It is Martinez’s experience of previous relegation battles which makes him wary of the threat Sunderland may pose.

The Black Cats may be bottom of the table - seven points from safety with two matches in hand having taken just one point from their last seven games - but they cannot be underestimated precisely because of the position they are in.

“It is important that intensity and focus is there without getting affected in a negative way through the emotions of what the significance is of achieving or not achieving that aim,” he added.

“I’ve seen it first hand. You can use those emotions in the right way and use them to your advantage.

“You get through the hurt of seeing you could lose your place in the division - that is difficult, but then you accept that you have an opportunity to achieve your aim of staying up and that is a significant moment.

“Those emotions affect the way the team plays, and Sunderland have seven games - more than any other team in that area - and it is still very much in their hands.”

Everton’s fate, too, is very much in their own hands, but Martinez does not feel what they do will have much psychological impact on Arsenal, who are involved in FA Cup semi-final action this weekend.

“The perception from the outside probably changed last Sunday (after beating Arsenal) that mathematically we have a great opportunity with six games to go, but internally nothing has changed,” he added.

“We set our targets clearly in the final third of the season and we are in the same mindset because we are in a position where we are fighting for our own aim.

“When you get into this sort of fight against a team like Arsenal, who season after season have known how to perform under massive expectation, I don’t think you can pile pressure on a team like that.

“Favourites or not, they are in that fourth position at the moment and we aspire to get as many points as we can, but it is not a moment to look at the table.

“We are very much at the peak of our season and we will enjoy every game ahead of us.”