It had been a difficult week prior to Everton's home match against Aston Villa on Saturday. A 4-0 humbling by rivals Liverpool meant that the Toffees lost ground in their pursuit of a top four finish, but even more troubling was the manner of the defeat, and its potential effect on the team's resolve. Everton weren't just beaten on Tuesday; they were outthought, outfought and outclassed, and the game against Villa took on a whole new level of significance as a result.
Unfortunately, the midweek malaise appeared to persist at Goodison Park, during the first half at least. Everton were slow, their passing was timid and they once again proved vulnerable on the counter. That changed after half time, however. It's often said that one of the marks of a great team is their ability to recover from setbacks. With that in mind, Kevin Mirallas' late winner could yet be the Blues' most important goal of the campaign.
2. Martinez turns things around. Again.
Roberto Martinez was rightly criticised for his tactical naivety against Liverpool but the manager once again demonstrated his acumen against Villa. Time and time again this season, the Spaniard's substitutions have had a telling impact on the outcome of a match (including in the reverse fixture at Villa Park), and on this occasion it was super subs Steven Pienaar and Steven Naismith that combined to finally unlock the stubborn Villains defence.
3. Mirallas takes responsibility.
Asked to lead the line in the absence of both Romelu Lukaku and Lacina Traore through injury, Kevin Mirallas toiled against Villa's deep-lying defence without managing to fashion many opportunities. The Belgian is best playing alongside a front man rather than assuming that role himself, and though there was no doubting his efforts throughout the match, he was unable to pose any serious threat from open play.
Dead ball situations are another story entirely, however, and with five minutes remaining Mirallas won the match with a beautifully curled free kick from 25 yards. He was the only Everton player to emerge from Tuesday's derby debacle with any sort of credit, and with injuries mounting, Mirallas increasingly looks like a player willing to lead from the front.
4. Naismith provides the finishing touch.
I've written previously about how Everton have yet to properly utilise Steven Naismith's nous in front of goal, and the Scottish forward added to his growing goal tally this season with the crucial equaliser on Saturday. The Toffees' striker shortage is well documented, and Naismith's overall play still leaves something to be desired, but when it comes to finishing clinically he might just be Everton's most reliable forward right now.
5. Barkley still isn't right.
The only real negative to take away from Saturday's win was another poor showing from Ross Barkley. So often Everton's talisman this season, the midfielder was taken off at the break after an uncharacteristically lethargic first half performance, in which he was notably dispossessed in the build up to Leandro Bacuna's opener.
It may be that Barkley needs an extra week or two to recover from his toe injury, having been rushed back for the Merseyside derby, but with Everton's squad stretched to breaking point Roberto Martinez may be forced to keep him in contention, for next week's trip to White Hart Lane at least.