Roberto Martínez has not formulated a Plan A and a Plan B. The Spaniard simply has a plan. It is one that will provide proof of the progress made this season and, he believes, will ensure Everton continue to advance in the future. It can be summed up in two words: European football. He is convinced that wherever Everton's continental travels take them, they will benefit.
"What we want to do is make sure this season affects the seasons after," said Martínez. "The only way you can do that is qualifying for Europe." Martínez's former club, Swansea, can testify to the debilitating after-effects of a Europa League run. His predecessor, David Moyes, has few happy memories of Everton's ventures abroad. Typically Martínez is unworried. It is not a case of Champions League or bust. He does not believe Thursday night football entails sipping from a poisoned chalice. "It's a big target of ours to make sure that the good work we have done this season can [help us] kick on next season. That will be [by] being in Europe," he said, adding: "Whichever the competition."
Despite the financial gulf between the celebrated and disparaged European tournaments, Martínez will still go after the same transfer targets, if Everton finish in the top four or not. "It will be a big summer for us whatever happens," he said. "Maybe you can get one extra signing where the player is excited about the Champions League. But I don't think it will make a big difference in what we are going to be as a football club."
The probability is that their immediate future lies in the Europa League. While Everton have a game in hand on fourth-placed Arsenal and the Gunners visit Goodison Park in April – where Martínez's side have recorded eight consecutive home victories – the majority of their last nine matches are away. Three of the four on their own turf are against Arsène Wenger's side and the Manchester clubs, so the odds are stacked against them accumulating a lot of points in the run-in.
"Anything around 70 points will be enough for the Champions League spot," insisted Martínez. "We have that in mind."
But perhaps only a man as innately optimistic as the Spaniard could deem it likely when, for the eighth successive season, they appear on course to remain in the second group of four teams. One scenario is that Everton, who have gone out of both domestic cup competitions at the same stage as last season, could conceivably end the campaign in sixth: the same position they finished at the end of Moyes's reign. Viewed in that light, the sceptics could argue this has been a stylish makeover, not a substantial change.
Yet the difference is apparent in the results – his team have won 52% of league games this season, compared with 42% under Moyes last year – and a sea change in attitude has occurred. If the Scot's priority was not to lose, the Spaniard's aim is invariably to win.
Creativity is a theme of his management, whether in his recruitment or his uncanny ability to turn one point into three with influential changes. It was uncharacteristic that Everton had less of the ball against Swansea but they showed their resourcefulness. They caught Swansea on the counterattack when Ross Barkley won the penalty for Leighton Baines' opening goal. They scored from a second set piece when Barkley headed in Kevin Mirallas's corner. "We don't have to be at our very best to win football games and that's a real strength," said Martínez.
Man of the match Ross Barkley (Everton)