Everton manager Marco Silva has admitted “small changes” have allowed his players to rebuild a strong connection with supporters ahead of the final home game of the season.
Everton, who host Burnley on Friday, have taken 17 points from their last 10 Premier League games – only Manchester City, Liverpool, Leicester and Chelsea have taken more in that time.
Four wins in six matches have propelled Everton to within four points of seventh-placed Wolves, but the 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park means they are reliant on results elsewhere to enter the Europa League.
Even more impressive has been Everton’s seven clean sheets in their last nine league matches – and Silva says he has seen a growth in his players’ development over the last couple of months.
“Yes, I have, of course,” the Everton manager told Sky Sports. “We know our philosophy is to be offensive and to win every match, and both collectively and individually I’ve seen the development of my team.
“If you go player by player, we can see some very good signs coming from them. Some of them are having their best season with Everton, others are showing their quality and having a different season to the previous one.
“We’ve reacted well as a team in the last two months after a bad period that we had. We stuck together in that period, and the players deserve credit because they kept believing in our ideas.”
Silva has stuck to his principles throughout an eventful first season in charge, with Everton having recently secured home wins over Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United following on from a creditable 0-0 draw with Liverpool in the Merseyside derby.
With his side ninth in the Premier League, the 41-year-old admitted that the end of the season is coming too soon, but he is focused on finishing the campaign as strongly as possible.
The surprise 2-0 setback at Fulham last month served to highlight the inconsistency that Silva is determined to iron out ahead of next season.
But the Portuguese has only made minor changes to his coaching during the campaign, believing in the methods that have served him well in his managerial career so far.
Silva added: “I don’t have problems changing [my philosophy] if I feel that will be the best way to achieve what we want – no problem at all.
“I have in my mind that I want to improve every day, I have to analyse if I want to achieve this. I have to give all the solutions and feedback to my players if we want to improve.
“We have changed some things. Small details every single week, and by giving small updates to our players, we can keep improving.
“But changing everything from the first day of the season, of course, doesn’t make sense. In the two months around December and January, the players felt what was playing against us were small details on many occasions.
“With full focus and the full commitment and of course with good results, everything can change fast.
“We’ve achieved that in important matches at Goodison, and that changed the atmosphere and changed the connection with our fans, which we had lost since the start of the season.
“We have reached that strong level again. We dropped our levels after September and October, and we’ve changed some things to get our levels back, but we’ve not changed a lot, as that wouldn’t make sense.”
Silva revealed that there is yet to be any progress in the club’s attempts to secure Kurt Zouma and Andre Gomes on permanent deals, with their loan moves from Chelsea and Barcelona respectively set to expire at the end of the season.
The Everton boss is expected to look to strengthen his options in the striker department, but he reiterated that the club must retain their best players this summer if the goal of European football is to be secured next season.
He said: “First we have to keep our level. The main thing for us has to be this. We have to keep our best players, and then after that, we have to keep improving the key positions.”
On Zouma and Gomes, Silva said: “Their own clubs will play a key part [on their futures], and then after that it is their own decisions.
“We will do what we can to keep them and they’re important players. They’re showing their quality and our fans are really happy with them also.
“It will be important for us if we can keep them as I think we should do our maximum to keep them. Let’s see what the decision will be of their clubs, and the players’ decision also. It’s not in our hands.
“It’s not just these two, as they are not contracted with us, but there are others who are playing at a level where it’s normal that other clubs are interested.
“If we want to do better and get stronger, we have to keep our best players.”