Carlo Ancelotti says Everton’s lofty Premier League position is down to a combination of football intelligence and the team playing to its strengths.
But the Italian admits the next phase of his Everton evolution will involve a gear change and shift to a higher-pressing style.
Everton welcome Newcastle United to Goodison Park on Saturday with the incentive for victory a place in the top five at full-time.
Manager Ancelotti’s team is in miserly form, conceding only six times and not allowing any opponent to score against them more than once in their past nine Premier League games.
Newcastle are the second visitors to Goodison inside four days after Everton drew with Leicester on Wednesday – and Ancelotti is reading nothing into the Magpies’ poor recent form.
“We have to pay attention to this game, every game is really difficult and unpredictable,” said Ancelotti.
“It is an important game for both teams for different reasons.
“For us, it is really important because we have a possibility to go up in the table… it can be good motivation for the second part of the season.
“Newcastle have difficulties in this moment and will come here with all their energy and motivation.
“Our position is good, there is a lot of competition and every game is so complicated and difficult.
“But we have possibilities to improve the team and quality of our style.
“We showed defending deep we are comfortable, now we have to be comfortable to defend when the defensive line is a little bit higher.
“That will give us the opportunity to press forward and give us more opportunities to score goals.
“We have to try to keep this consistency, with the defensive line 15 metres higher.
“But to be able to defend when you have to defend, is important.
“One of the qualities of a team is to read the situation.
“When you have to defend and you try to attack, it is a mistake
“When you have to attack and try to defend, it is a mistake.
“We were able to read the situation of the games.”
Everton currently sit seventh and would jump to the fringes of the top-four positions by beating Newcastle, while holding games in hand on the teams between second and fourth.
At the halfway point of their campaign, Ancelotti reiterated it is right to target the Champions League football which would enable his players to “step forwards in their careers”
Asked about specific individuals at his pre-match press conference on Friday, Ancelotti paid tribute to Gylfi Sigurdsson – who is one appearance short of 300 in the Premier League – and identified improved service as the key to enabling his forward trio to consistently fire.
“Gylfi is doing really well… he is a fantastic professional and player,” said Ancelotti.
“He can play in different positions, maybe sometimes I didn’t use him in the position he prefers [behind the striker] but he never complained.
“He is always focused.
“He is a team player and another captain in this squad for his behaviours and attitude.
“When we have the defensive line deep, the strikers, James, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison, have more difficulties to show their qualities
“They are not defenders
"We have to give them more opportunities to show their quality, to press forward and give them more opportunity to have the ball and use their quality in front.”
Ancelotti confessed to mixed emotions following the midweek draw with Leicester.
But after winning the reverse fixture six weeks earlier, the former AC Milan boss insists a four-point return from those two matches is more than acceptable.
“The lesson I learned [from Wednesday] is we can compete with everyone in the Premier League… Leicester is one of the best teams and from two games we had four points, which is really good," added Ancelotti.
“The fact we are in a good position in the table was not because we played fantastic football.
“It was because we defended well and with the quality we have in front, we score goals.
“We score a lot of goals on set-pieces, because we have fantastic headers and players who can deliver the ball really well.
“We have to use the qualities we have.”