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Why even a fifth-placed finish won't ruin Everton's success story

Roberto Martinez's side blew their chance to stake a claim for fourth spot in a 3-2 defeat to Crystal Palace, but it should not belittle a wonderful season.

A 3-2 defeat at home to Crystal Palace was not what the doctor ordered for Everton as their hopes of securing fourth spot in the Premier League took a huge dent.

Roberto Martinez's side had gone into the game occupying the final Champions League spot ahead of fellow top-four chasers Arsenal but slipped up as Tony Pulis' brilliant Palace side raced into a two-goal lead before keeping their nerve to distinguish any lingering relegation fears once and for all.

The defeat may mean the top four is beyond Everton this year, but nevertheless here are five reasons why the Toffees' season has been nothing short of a revelation.

Martinez's attacking principles

The Spaniard arrived determined to gate-crash the status quo of the Premier League top four and while it is Merseyside rivals Liverpool who have knocked Manchester United so dramatically off their perch, Martinez's impact on this side has been palpable.

Everton looked ever so slightly hamstrung by former boss David Moyes' more defensive-minded approach and struggled to express themselves as much as Martinez has allowed for.

The Spaniard has brought the best out of Ross Barkley, Kevin Mirallas and Romelu Lukaku, who have all enjoyed stellar seasons and fulfilled their undeniable potential.

The future's bright, the future's blue

One of the most admirable factors of Martine's reign to this point has been the promotion of youth. It is well noted that Moyes did not 'trust' Barkley's ever-so slightly cavalier style to his midfield work but he has been liberated by Martinez this term.

An unsuccessful loan spell at Leeds United last season threatened to leave Barkley on the fringes of the Everton first team, but Martinez was bold enough to thrust him into action and has reaped the rewards.

The recent promotion of John Stones, too, has seen the defender cope admirably in Phil Jagielka's absence, while the loss of James McCarthy - brought from Wigan when Martinez arrived at the club - was keenly felt during the defeat to Palace.

Renewal of faith in the loan system

No matter what Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger thinks of it, Martinez and Everton have made loan deals all the rage once more.

Everton have benefited from temporary agreements for Gareth Barry, who has provided a steadying influence at the base of the midfield, and the effervescent Gerard Deulofeu, while Lukaku's role as spearhead in the Toffees attack has seen him score 13 league goals this season.

The Toffees, lest we forget, do not boast the same cash reserves the Gunners sit on and have shown savvy business sense to give them a shot, albeit an unlikely one now, of toppling the north London giants.

A British core

Across Stanley Park, Liverpool have profited largely from their home nations contingent, which has acted as the foundaton to an unlikely title challenge.

Everton, similarly, have their British and Irish players to thank for their improvement on last season.

The aforementioned duo have been key components but so too have the usual customers in Leighton Baines and Phil Jagielka, without forgetting Stones and Barkley's respective contributions.

Improving players

Steven Naismith once cut a forlorn figure in Evertonian blue. Widely accepted as the scapegoat of the squad, his transfer from Rangers in 2012 was always considered a slightly odd one.

Martinez has proven more than anything this season that he is the master of extracting every ounce of quality out of a player and has done wonders in reviving Naismith's stalling career.

The Spaniard identified strengths in his game which had not been capitalised on during Moyes' tenure and has been able to get the best out of the Scot, who has netted five Premier League goals this season. 

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