Everton thriving on their powers of imagination
Sunderland 0 Everton 1
Everton boss Roberto Martinez is reaping the rewards of daring to dream as he embarked upon the latest phase of his managerial career.
The 40-year-old Spaniard guided his club into the Premier League's top four on Saturday evening with this victory – their seventh in succession – to leave Arsenal in little doubt that their challenge for Champions League qualification is genuine.
Few onlookers would have expected Martinez to make the impact he has so quickly after taking over from David Moyes in June last year.
However, he insists what has transpired was within the bounds of his imagination as he eased himself into Moyes' shoes.
Martinez said: "If you don't imagine it, you will never get there. I have never seen in football anyone achieve something that nobody had a bit of a dream or a bit of a vision about.
"I always felt that this group of players, with the 10 players we have bought in the two windows, we created a squad that had a perfect balance of great bravery and talent and young ambition with a real know-how and experience, and I think that balance is reflected in (Saturday's) performance.
"Compared to last Sunday, it was a complete contrast and to have that diversity in your squad is phenomenal.
"The points that we have, it hasn't been a case of luck or being fortunate, it's the opposite.
"Every point that we have dropped this season, it has seemed a little bit unfortunate, and that shows you that we have got still a margin for improvement, and that's what we are going to try to do from now until the end of the campaign."
If last weekend's 3-0 home victory over the Gunners represented a declaration of intent, Saturday's performance and result at the Stadium of Light were more prosaic, but ultimately had the same effect.
The Toffees were not at their fluent best, particularly in front of goal, against a Black Cats side fighting for their top-flight status.
However, they found a way to win, even if they did need a helping hand from their hapless hosts.
There were 15 minutes remaining when 20-year-old Spaniard Gerard Deulofeu yet again showed left-back Marcos Alonso a clean pair of heels before sending in a cross which hit defender Wes Brown at the near post and beat goalkeeper Vito Mannone.
With five games remaining, Everton now sit two points clear of Arsene Wenger's FA Cup finalists and, although their run-in is not straightforward - both Manchester clubs are yet to visit Goodison Park - they have a very real chance of gatecrashing the top four.
Martinez said: "Remember, when we started at the beginning of the season, you had six football clubs with big budgets who were fighting for the title and we are out of that six, so you can imagine that we have got no pressure whatsoever.
"We want that pressure in terms of performing well week in, week out and finding ways to win game consistently.
"But we are fighting to achieve something, we have something to win. Believe me, that in football is no pressure whatsoever."
Opposite number Gus Poyet knows all about pressure, however, as he attempts to drag Sunderland out of a seemingly insurmountable slump which has seen them cast seven points adrift of safety with just six games to play.
The club's problems are by no means all of his own making, and he admits some date back several seasons.
Poyet said: "You have to go back three or four years, or maybe seven or eight.
"I have been reading from the times of Reidy (former manager Peter Reid), and apart from one year when Darren Bent scored 24 goals, we have been always playing with fire.
"The only thing that has changed more or less is the manager, so maybe it's time to change something different and look for the real problem inside the club and not just the one who comes here and talks to you every week."