Roberto Martinez has insisted Everton can still secure a top four finish and a place in next season's UEFA Champions League despite a potentially damaging defeat at Southampton. The 2-0 loss at St Mary's left Everton in fifth place, a point behind Arsenal, who can go four points clear of the Merseysiders with two games to play if they win at home to Newcastle on Monday.
However, Everton manager Martinez said his side could still leapfrog Arsenal if they finished the season with maximum points from their remaining games at home to Premier League title contenders Manchester City and away to FA Cup finalists Hull. That would give the Toffees 75 points and Martinez said: "I always felt that to get into the Champions League was always going to take a lot of points, anything from 72 to 75, so this doesn't change anything that we need to do. We need to try to win every game we have.
"69 points for us with two games to go is a phenomenal total and the squad is not going to be affected," the Spaniard maintained. "The opposite; we are going to be galvanised for next Saturday," added the former Wigan manager, who replaced David Moyes - sacked by Manchester United on Tuesday after a 2-0 defeat by Everton - ahead of this season.
"I think it will be enough. If you look historically, only once the fourth place went for 76 points over 15 years. Historically, with 64 or 65 points you got into fourth place. In terms of points tally, that we can reach a tally of 72 to 75 points is a remarkable achievement."
Everton sealed their own fate on the south coast with a pair of first half own-goals from Antolin Alcaraz and Seamus Coleman handing Southampton an advantage they maintained despite an improved second half showing from the visitors.
"We have been brave and played attacking football with real energy," said Martinez. "We conceded two early goals and all that desire we have as a group affected our way of performing. The scoreline affected our game too much."
Prior to this defeat, Everton had won eight of their previous nine league games. "To win eight matches out of 10 and get 24 out of 30 points is phenomenal," Martinez said. "Now we will look for the next six points. And then I will look at the table on May 11th and see where we are."
Southampton pair Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw impressed in front of the watching England coach Roy Hodgson after the two players had again been linked with a move away from the club. The Saints denied reports, transfer talks have begun with Manchester United and manager Mauricio Pochettino was anxious the ongoing speculation did not overshadow a victory that left Southampton eighth in England's top-flight with a tally of 52 points.
"This is not the right time to talk about the future," Pochettino said. "We have to enjoy the moment and enjoy this victory," the Argentinian added. "We have achieved the maximum number of points for the club in the Premier League which is a great achievement. We created the chances to make the own-goals happen and this was an amazing performance against a team trying to get into the top four."