Roberto Martinez has suggested that he needs up to seven new players this summer to prepare his Everton side for a European challenge.
Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Southampton severely damaged hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League, which will all but disappear if fourth-placed Arsenal beat Newcastle on Monday night. But Everton need just one point from their final two matches to guarantee a spot in next season’s Europa League, which will put its own demands on Martinez’s squad.
The manager is looking at the possibility of retaining Monaco forward Lacina Traore, probably on another loan deal, as well as securing a permanent deal for midfielder Gareth Barry, who is out of contract at parent club Manchester City this summer.
Holding on to striker Romelu Lukaku, borrowed from Chelsea for the season, may be more difficult now that the prospect of Champions League football is fading. But the manager is making plans to strengthen a squad that has taken Everton to fifth in the Premier League with two matches to play.
He told British national newspapers: “It’s not about improving the squad, it’s about increasing it.
“When you are playing in Europe, you need six or seven new players. That’s the reality and we will do that. I get excited about bringing new players in. You need fresh blood.
“We’ve got incredible senior players: Tim Howard, James McCarthy, Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines, Leon Osman. Those players hold the dressing room together but we need fresh talent and fresh additions to help the team.
“In another season, the 69 points we have would have been enough for Champions League football. With the heritage and history we have, we should be aiming for the Champions League.
Everton’s push for the Champions League has run out of steam over the last fortnight, with two defeats in their last three games handing the momentum back to Arsenal in the race for fourth. Goalkeeper Tim Howard admitted that he was surprised that the performance at Southampton was so poor.
“We just weren’t ourselves,"the United States international told the Liverpool Echo. “We couldn’t get to the ball -- and when we had it, we couldn’t take care of it. All the things you’ve come to know from us this season were missing; even the work and tireless energy. It was head-scratching.
“We just need to push this aside and hope for the best with the six points remaining. Mathematically we still have a chance so it’s not over. The thing is not to let it affect us too much -- and the manager has been brilliant in that regard. He dismisses it quickly; both bad results and good ones.”