Martinez: Everton have matured
Everton manager Roberto Martinez believes his side have learned valuable lessons this season, the most important being how to win when things are not going their way.
Last weekend's 1-0 win over sixth-placed Southampton showed a resilience not always evident in the Spaniard's teams as, having taken an early lead, they managed to avoid any mishaps to secure a third successive Premier League victory.
A year ago the Toffees were playing opponents off the pitch with their fluid passing style but it has been a different story this season as their domestic form suffered at the expense of a run to the last 16 of the Europa League.
But things seem to have clicked into gear, almost aligned with their European exit, and while Martinez has not altered his approach - highlighted by this week's open training session at Goodison Park when all the drills were focused on short, sharp passing - the players appear to have become more streetwise.
"I wouldn't say things have changed much. It is evident all of a sudden we have used the demands in Europe in a good manner.
"I thought we ended up being able to cope with that mental fatigue we have in Europe and playing in the league and we are a stronger team and we will learn through the experience.
"I do feel we are now a more mature side going into any game we are facing and I thought that showed as the performance against Newcastle was very different to the one we had to put in against QPR away from home and different again to the one at home to Southampton.
"The maturity in our game and understanding how to win matches comes after a really tough season in which we have learned our lessons and I do feel the group is becoming a lot stronger.
"The focus now is to get a real good momentum in the league - something we haven't been able to achieve this season."
Everton manager Roberto Martinez, right, insists there is no issue over striker Romelu Lukaku's futurePA Sport
Martinez admits they do not have a like-for-like replacement for the Belgium international but believes they have other solutions, and he thinks his former club Swansea have adjusted to a similar situation after the January sale of Wilfried Bony to Manchester City.
The loss of the Ivory Coast striker does not appear to have adversely affected results and Martinez has been impressed with the way they have coped.
"I don't think they've had a really bad spell," he added.
"They have found a way to cope with injuries, suspensions and players sold in the January window and that shows you a real sign of a team mentality.
"I think they have done extremely well without Bony.
"If you look at the stats I don't think they have suffered at all, if anything they show the team was ready to take responsibility and produce good performances.
"They have really good organisation and their work ethic is fantastic; Garry Monk knows the club and the dressing room inside-out and that shows in the performances they put in."