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Arsenal (A) Sun 1 Mar 2015, 14:05, Barclays Premier League

by Hamish Dufton @efchamishdufton

Roberto Martinez has labelled Everton’s return to European competition as the ‘next step’ for the club after a top-six finish was guaranteed with a game to go.

Despite suffering only their third Goodison Park defeat at the hands of Manchester City, results elsewhere helped Everton all but secure fifth place in the Premier League and, more importantly, a place in next season’s Europa League.

And while a top-four position remained in sight until the final whistle, Martinez cannot be too disheartened.

He said: “It's disappointing because was a dream we had at the start of the season and we gave everything to achieve it.

“But if you finish fifth, there is no room for disappointment. We need to get ready for the demands of being where we belong, in European competition.

“In terms of making strides, the football has been outstanding. You cannot be disappointed, but as you can imagine, everyone is a little bit down because we wanted to go into the final game still fighting for Champions League football."

Nevertheless, the Spaniard is proud of the accomplishments of his players in his first season at the helm.

“However you look at it, it's been a magnificent season,” he added.

“Fifth place is not guaranteed just yet - goal difference can still mathematically play a part.

"But getting into Europe is the next step for us.

“It's important you can embrace the challenge of the domestic league, but having that European experience is what we need.

"We need to get the name of Everton out in Europe again and overall it's been an incredible experience.”

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