Roberto Martinez has denied that Everton need to reach the FA Cup final to save their season and says he knows his players best after receiving criticism last weekend.
The Toffees have flattered to deceive for much of the campaign and saw a promising little run ended by last week’s defeat against West Brom, their sixth at home in the Premier League.
They travel to Bournemouth in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Saturday, but boss Martinez insisted qualifying for Europe through the league remains the focus.
Everton sit 11th in the table, five points behind seventh-placed West Ham and six adrift of Manchester United in fifth.
Asked if the cup could be the club’s salvation, he said: “No, not at all. First of all we need to look at the league.
“We’re going into the final third of the season. That means 36 points to fight for, and we are not far away from the European places. That’s what we’re going to fight for.
“The team is mentally ready. I think we showed so far this season what we can achieve. In the League Cup, we got into the semi-final.
“I thought we had a really good, brave, double-leg semi-final with Manchester City. We were disappointed not to get through and I think it shows how far the expectations have grown and how far we’ve come.
“In the FA Cup we are in the fifth round, facing another Premier League side away from home, understanding the difficulties that brings but in the same way very much looking forward to that opportunity.”
Martinez has felt the heat from some supporters over Everton’s results.
Frustration has mounted that, in a season that has seen the usual suspects struggle, the Toffees have not been able to take advantage in the way that the likes of Leicester, Southampton and West Ham have.
Everton fans were particularly unhappy to see Aaron Lennon substituted in the 1-0 defeat to West Brom, but Martinez said of their reaction: “It’s not concerning because we are all sharing the same feeling.
“We were the first ones to be frustrated and disappointed with what we were seeing. We were seeing a team dominating and creating chances and not being able to find the back of the net.
“There’s nothing wrong with seeing a player appreciated by the crowd but we’ve got a really strong squad and we have to use that squad.
“I’m in an advantageous position to know what the team needs and how the players feel. But I understand the reaction from the crowd.”
Saturday’s game will be refereed by Martin Atkinson, the first time he has overseen the Toffees since the second leg of their Capital One Cup semi-final against Manchester City.
The ball appeared to go out in the build-up to City’s second goal, which levelled the tie on aggregate, with City going on to clinch a place in the final against Liverpool.
Martinez does not hold a grudge, though, saying: “We all know Martin Atkinson has got fantastic experience and he’s a top referee, one of the best.
“Unfortunately for us the last time we had him he had a massive call that affected the outcome of that game and the outcome of being able to get to Wembley.
“You can understand the rawness of that feeling. I just hope it was a call that he couldn’t see or he didn’t get enough help from his assistants and probably it was a one-off.”
Martinez, meanwhile, does not believe the FA Cup is in need of wholesale changes.
There has been talk of scrapping replays or making it a midweek competition but the Spaniard, who won the cup with Wigan, said: “I think the FA Cup is the best cup competition in world football.
“There is a bit of an understanding that certain changes maybe will have to be made because of the demands of the modern game but we should respect the FA Cup and everyone should try to help towards making it the best cup competition for the next 10 and 20 years.”
Defender John Stones will be fit for Saturday’s clash after a hamstring injury but new signing Oumar Niasse is likely to have to wait for his debut.
Martinez refused to comment on reports linking Chelsea goalkeeper Asmir Begovic with an £8million summer switch to Goodison Park.