SINGAPORE, July 14 (Reuters) - Everton manager Roberto Martinez admitted that last season’s disappointing campaign was impacted by the side’s run to the last 16 of the Europa League but the Spaniard wants nothing more than to compete in the tournament again.
In his first season on Merseyside, Everton finished an impressive fifth but were mired in the bottom half of the table for much of the last campaign before they moved up to 11th on a run of good form after their European exit to Dynamo Kiev.
“If the question is ‘does playing in the Europa League have an impact on the league?’ then the answer is clearly ‘yes’,” Martinez told reporters on Tuesday in Singapore, where the club are playing in the Premier League Asia Trophy.
“It’s different when you are playing in Europe season after season, you get that mentality and habits and into a position where you can cope with it a lot better,” added the Spaniard ahead of Wednesday’s opening game against Stoke City.
Arsenal and a Singapore Select XI are the other teams in the lucrative pre-season event.
“Psychologically it’s very tough... like having to go to Russia on a Thursday and arriving back on a Friday afternoon to face Manchester United at Old Trafford on an early Sunday kickoff is a physical aspect that will affect you,” he added.
”It is a lesson that we have learned, we matured and we got better. But that is our aim. We want to be in those situations, to be playing in Europe year after year but that is something that is becoming harder in our league as you can imagine.
“There are probably five teams preparing this season to try and win the title and there’s another three or four teams with financial backing to get into Europe so it becomes harder and harder. But it is still our aim and one of our targets.”
Martinez has brought in a few new signings since the transfer window opened but does not expect any acquisitions similar to the club record 28 million pounds ($43.30 million) they paid for Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku a year ago.
“We are trying to build on what we have done in the last four windows and sometimes you need to spend big to bring in specific players,” he added.
“Now we have a strong group with some of the most exciting youngsters you will see in the league. I think the mixture is perfect and rather than talking about what we need, we are more concerned with how good we can be with the players we have.”
Club captain Phil Jagielka agreed.
“Obviously we spent a lot of money last year getting in the striker we needed but if you look around the squad, it’s really well balanced,” the England defender said.
”Previously we have aimed for a Champions League slot at the start of the season and see how we get on. The manager would love us to win something and so would the players.
”We have really high standards at the club and we let ourselves down and never really got the momentum we needed last season. A lot of people are blaming the Europa League but we want to finish in the European positions in the coming season.
“Hopefully we can start well and achieve that. That can only be a good thing.”
$1 = 0.6467 pounds Editing by Amlan Chakraborty