Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti says avoiding relegation was the priority for this season despite previously targeting European football next term.
Marco Silva left the club in the relegation zone in December before Ancelotti joined Everton and took them to a point off fifth place in February.
One point from three games has ended any European hopes for the Toffees, who are 11th in the Premier League.
“We didn’t put a time for [European football],” Ancelotti said.
“This season didn’t start well for Everton, we were close to the bottom of the table in December. We started quickly, we had a dream to reach Europe but the last results were not good.
“This doesn’t change the plan, the target has to be Europe. It’s not a disappointment we don’t reach Europe in this period. The priority when I arrived was different, to be safe as soon as possible.”
Former AC Milan, Real Madrid and Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti has won the Champions League three times as a manager and was a surprise appointment in December.
Everton’s only venture into the Champions League was the third qualifying round in 2005-06 and they have not gone beyond the last 16 of the Uefa Cup/Europa League in six attempts since.
Upon his appointment, and the unveiling of plans for a new stadium, the club have said they want to get back to the top tier of English and European football. They last won a European trophy – the Cup Winners’ Cup – in 1985.
Everton’s undoing this season has been their away form with only four wins from 18 games. They host 19th-placed Aston Villa on Thursday at 18:00 BST.
They won two and drew one in their first three games after the restart, but have since lost at Tottenham, drew at home to Southampton and were beaten at 3-0 at Wolves on Sunday.
That defeat ended any lingering European hopes and the Italian described it as “unacceptable”.
Asked to explain his team’s recent form, Ancelotti said: “We’ve had three poor performances. It’s difficult to say why.
“First of all, we didn’t have a lot of time to recover properly from games against Tottenham, Southampton and Wolves, and second, we lost a bit of fighting spirit.
“It was really quite difficult to reach Europe, maybe the players lost a bit of motivation and concentration.”
He also said he was “surprised” by his team’s lack of intensity in recent games.
“Since I arrived, the team showed fantastic spirit,” he added. “I thought it was an unselfish team, they worked hard for each other on the pitch. Sometimes we didn’t play well, but we never lost our fighting spirit, so this reason I was surprised and I told the players it is not acceptable.
“I understand that a big part of the DNA of the club is everyone wants to see the players fighting.
“The players have been here for more time than me so they know what the fans expect from them.
“I’m sure we will have a different attitude and reaction in the next three games.”
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