Toffees have right 'flavour' now: Martinez

Roberto Martinez is also targeting a place in Europe ahead of the new season though he admits the challenge is getting harder.
Roberto Martinez is also targeting a place in Europe ahead of the new season though he admits the challenge is getting harder.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

After finishing fifth in his first campaign in charge and qualifying for the Europa League, Everton faltered last season. But manager Roberto Martinez believes he has assembled a side capable of challenging the top English Premier League (EPL) clubs again.

Even as the Toffees start the 2015-16 season with daunting games against Southampton, Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham, the Spanish tactician thinks he has a balance of quality signings like Gerard Deulofeu and Tom Cleverley and footballers well-versed in the Everton way to battle their way through.

"We are a phenomenal football club that you want to play football with," said Martinez of the Toffees, who last season celebrated their 112th year in England's top-flight - a record.

"Also, we've got one of the most exciting places to play football at Goodison Park and that's a special place to play where we can infuse young talent and we are getting very close to be a winning side.

"When you look into the squad, you need a good balance. The captain (Phil Jagielka) here, alongside Leon (Osman), Gareth (Barry), (Leighton) Baines, Tim Howard... these players are the core, these players are Everton. They bring maturity and serenity to us."

Martinez was speaking at a press conference for the Barclays Asia Trophy at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. The Toffees will play the tournament's opening match at the National Stadium today against Stoke City.

Cleverley is excited to be part of Martinez's plans, saying: "It's a great football team and I've worked with Martinez before (at Wigan Athletic). It's exciting to get back to him, to a great squad, great fans and a lot of history."

Skipper Jagielka, who joined from Sheffield United in 2007, wants to retire at Goodison.

"I'd love to finish my career at Everton," the England international said. "It will be almost 10 years that I have played for Everton by the time my contract finishes. It's a long stint but, hopefully, I can extend it beyond."

Keen to hit the ground running in the new campaign, Martinez aims to surpass the results of the previous season when the Toffees finished 11th in the EPL and were booted out of the Europa League by Dinamo Kiev in the round of 16.

He said: "We had the welcome distraction of playing European football and it had an effect on our league campaign. We need a very good start to the (new) season, to be as good as we can, because we are being heavily tested.

"We do want to be in those situations, to be playing in Europe year after year and that's getting harder and harder, but that has to be the aim on our agenda."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 15, 2015, with the headline 'Toffees have right 'flavour' now: Martinez'. Print Edition | Subscribe