Everton manager Sean Dyche believes his side have got their “edge” back at just the right time.
A surprise 5-1 win at Brighton on Monday has raised hopes of escaping relegation and he knows that ability to find something extra will be crucial as they host Premier League leaders and treble-chasers Manchester City.
Dyche took over a side at the end of January that had lost eight of nine matches but after the initial bounce a new manager occasionally brings, beating Arsenal and Leeds in his first three games, results tailed off again.
The team had registered just one win in 11 before victory over the Seagulls but Dyche thinks that result – after encouraging signs in their previous outing in a 2-2 draw at Leicester – shows that much sought-after X-factor is returning.
“I looked at some of the performances, the body language, intent and meaning behind the performance and in some way, I thought some things were lacking,” he said.
“We’ve adjusted that side of it, the purposefulness of the side, some of the quality moments, some of the defensive side but the actual feel of the performance and mentality of the performance has grown.
“Watching the intent, body language and desire of a team, it’s hard to explain, but I know it when I see it, I’ve been in the game all my life.
“You get stats – our team and their team – and it can look like there’s nothing in it, but there’s a big difference in body language intent and desire from those stats.
“Compared to some of the performances since I got here, that kind of edge has improved.”
Everton’s win over Brighton was a huge morale boost but facing City, even at Goodison Park, is a daunting task for a side who probably require at least one more win from their remaining three games to extend their top-flight status into a 70th successive season.
And while time is running out to save themselves, as they did on the penultimate game of last season, Dyche is keen to change the view on the significance which has been placed on coming good when it is needed at the end of a campaign.
“The thing I’m trying to get to here is that every single game should matter. Every single game should be the most important one. We are trying to build that momentum,” he added.
“I’ve never believed in ‘the business end of the season’. The first game should be the business end of the season because that might be the one that wins you a title, gets you promoted or keeps you in a division.
“If you take big games along the way then fantastic – it’s great for you, great for the team, great for the prowess of the club and the badge, great for everything.
“But that should be the mentality on day one, not just because you’re playing Man City and it’s near the end of a season.
“We are trying to adjust that, it is a longer-term thing, but that is my belief. Of course it is a fantastic occasion to take on one of the biggest teams in terms of winning trophies, but that doesn’t make it easier.”