Phil Jagielka says Everton have “gathered momentum” in the closing months of 2018-19 and can capitalise on the rich potential in Marco Silva’s squad next term.
Centre-back Jagielka was restored to Everton’s starting line-up for the victory at Cardiff City in February which prompted a productive sequence of results.
He scored the only goal in last month’s Goodison Park victory over Arsenal after being summoned by manager Silva when fellow defender Michael Keane fell ill shortly before kick-off.
Jagielka has come off the bench in Everton’s past two home games, the 4-0 victory over Manchester United and last Friday’s visit of Burnley – when Silva’s side won the game with two goals inside the opening 20 minutes.
The 36-year-old received a fabulous ovation when he replaced Gylfi Sigurdsson for the closing minutes as Everton wrapped up a fourth straight home win – Chelsea, Arsenal, United and Burnley all drawing blanks in their Goodison defeats.
“We found it hard initially this season to keep clean sheets but we have rectified that and winning games is a lot easier when you’re shutting out your opponents… the boys have been fantastic,” Jagielka told evertontv.
“There is a lot of potential here and it is vital we continue to progress.
“We blew Burnley away to begin with and controlled the game throughout.
“I thought we defended really well, especially with the threat they posed.
“We’ve gathered some momentum so, hopefully, that can carry us forward to next season and we can see where it takes us.”
Jagielka has featured seven times in the top-flight this season and amassed 321 Premier League appearances – placing him fourth on the Club’s all-time list – since joining from Sheffield United in summer 2007.
And the former England player has detected signs of things steadily falling into place under Silva. Everton muscled into the top six following a strong opening three months of the campaign.
A mid-season dip was arrested when a 17-day gap between fixtures enabled the manager and his players to have an extended stint on the training ground.
Everton emerged from that period to score 16 goals and record eight clean sheets in the process of collecting 20 points from 10 games.
“We have found a way to get the first goal in matches,” added Jagielka. “We always felt we could score but for a spell we were looking for goals to get back in games.
“Now we are scoring first and keeping clean sheets which is exactly how you want to go about winning games.
“Confidence picks up very quickly when you start getting results and there is a lot of belief in the squad.
“When we won at Cardiff, we said we wanted it to be a platform for a good run to push us up the table and that is how it turned out.”
Goodison rose as one when Jagielka came on for midfielder Sigurdsson against Burnley.
And the acclaim for Everton’s captain continued as the players completed their lap of appreciation following the final whistle.
Everton were unbeaten in their last five home games and can add to their 53-point tally – four up on 2017-18 – when Silva’s team wraps up the campaign at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
“It was always going to take time to find the right combinations but that is happening," added Jagielka. "We will try to finish on the right note this weekend and continue building on what we've done this season.
“It was good to come on against Burnley and very nice to feel so appreciated.”