Marco Silva says Everton’s late-season surge will act as a “good starting point” for his second campaign in charge at Goodison Park.
Everton claimed 21 points from their final 11 games, a run manager Silva insists reflects the growth of his side in the past nine months.
Silva’s team recovered from conceding early on the last day at Tottenham Hotspur to draw 2-2. Indeed, Everton would have achieved a first away success at one of this term’s top six in more than five years had Spurs’ Christian Eriksen not lashed home a free-kick leveller.
Everton have made a host of improvements in Silva's debut season at Goodison.
A barren period of form against that current top six was emphatically curtailed when Everton beat Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United in successive home matches.
Those victories featured in a sequence of six wins and three draws from 2018-19's closing 11 games, Everton scoring 18 goals and recording eight clean sheets in that time.
“We finished the season in a good moment, playing well, achieving good results, enjoying it with our fans and giving them what they deserve,” Silva told evertontv.
“It is a good starting point for us to prepare well for the market, to prepare well for next season and to start well next season.
“I don’t have doubts that we are a stronger team than at the beginning of the season.
“We are finishing in a different spot, with different qualities as a football team.
“We are better, our players are better players now, they grew as football players.
“This development is so clear, some of them performing at a different level this season.
“It is my job, too, to improve the players, always working with them.
“I am pleased with this situation. But, of course, I want more.
“I want to give everything to our fans they deserve.
“It is up to us to keep working hard and try to do everything we can to achieve more and give more good things next season.”
Silva was forced to make three changes for the trip to Tottenham, injuries to Richarlison, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Seamus Coleman opening the door for Cenk Tosun, Theo Walcott and Yerry Mina to play in north London.
Walcott followed his goal from the bench against United by marking his first start since 3 March with an accomplished equalising strike.
Striker Tosun, whose wait for a place in Silva’s first XI stretched back to 9 February, scored Everton’s second and contributed a fine all-round forward’s display.
Colombian Mina was resolute in the middle of defence after being sidelined for two months with a hamstring problem.
And Silva, who also saw midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin make an impressive return to the fold in the season’s final four games, insists his players understand the imperative of seizing their opportunities to perform.
“It is really important, if a player is not playing often, it doesn’t mean they don’t have quality,” said Silva.
“Sometimes the player in their position is doing well and it is tough for them to come in.
“When we gave the chance to Richarlison to play on the right side and he did really well, it became more difficult for Theo.
“That does not mean Theo does not have the quality, because I don’t doubt his quality.
“The same applies to Cenk and Mina.
“Michael [Keane] and Kurt [Zouma] had a fantastic season together, so it was tough for the other central defenders. That is part of the game.
“They [Tosun, Walcott and Mina] had their chances, they did well and fought together with their teammates.
“Morgan did really well and had a good end to the season.
“He is a player with quality and turned things for himself by working hard every day at Finch Farm.
“He showed me he has the quality and is able to play again.
“I gave the chance to him and after that he started to improve and finished the season in a good spot.”
Everton’s 2-0 victory over Chelsea in March ended a 26-match wait for success against any of those sides which have occupied the Premier League's top-six positions for the past three seasons.
Silva guided Everton to draws at Chelsea and Tottenham this season, while away fixtures with Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool were lost by the finest of margins.
And the manager, who has form for knocking over big guns on the road – his Estoril side ended Porto’s five-year, 81-match unbeaten home run, while Silva’s Olympiakos won at Arsenal in the Champions League – insists it is vital Everton address their away record against top teams.
“I didn’t like how we started the game on Sunday," added Silva.
“We didn’t play in the way we wanted – and how the players wanted – with the desire to create chances.
“But after 20 minutes, we created chances to score – and we got the goals in the second half.
“We challenged Tottenham by playing good football, with more focus and desire.
“We achieved the point but it could have been more. We had a good chance to win… for us 33 matches without a win away against the top-six clubs is too long, it has to be our desire to change this as soon as we can.
“We changed some bad numbers for us this season. It is up to us to keep working hard to do the same things next season.”