Rafael Benítez is not afraid of repeating himself.
Everton’s impressive start to the Premier League season has already raised expectations that had reached new lows among fans, the controversial turn to a former Liverpool manager tempered further by a summer of austerity.
Constrained in the transfer market by the club’s losses (roughly £ 265 million over the past three financial years for little in return), Benítez knew he would not be allowed to spend anything in his attempt to alleviate some of the unease surrounding your appointment.
And yet his undefeated Toffees are fourth in the table after four games, tied on points with leaders Manchester United.
A draw at Leeds represents the only points lost, and the Everton boss hopes his team can maintain their momentum when they travel to Aston Villa on Saturday. Sky sports.
Benítez is responding to his detractors, but refuses to be carried away by the slogan of “one game at a time” that has been the first soundtrack of his term.
“If you want to achieve something, you have to set goals that you can achieve and that you can achieve,” he says exclusively. Sky sports.
“At first it is too far away to think in terms of a position in the table. It is not something that you see in front of you every week.
“That’s why I say, ‘one game at a time.’ It’s better to tell a player how they can improve one thing and the team how they can improve two things. After two months, you may have improved five or six things and then you you get stronger “.
Speaking in Monday night footballJamie Carragher said this week that Benitez has used his knowledge of the city and its supporters to identify the soccer brand being sought at Goodison Park.
He said: “Until now, they have played the way I associate with Everton. I always thought they are a team that should be looking to advance the ball quickly, engage the crowd, play with intensity and catch the ball.” in the frame.
“Not playing so much from behind or being a Barcelona player. They are a utopia for a certain type of team, but I think Atlético de Madrid should be the example for Everton to follow. Rafa has taken advantage of that.”
So is Carragher correct in his assessment?
“We know what the fans in general want,” Benítez responds. “In the end, they want the team to win by playing good football.
“This may vary by country – in Spain, there was a passing football period, the Tiki Taka, because Barcelona was doing so well that everyone wanted to copy it.
“Here Manchester City spend a lot of money on good players to play a certain way and many people naturally feel that they have to copy their style of play because it is perceived to be the right way to play. But it is not the right way for everyone. .
“You have to have a combination of things. You need to control the games and you have to pass the ball correctly when you have it and sometimes you have to be direct when you have to attack. Advancing is what the fans expect, and here the fans expect. crosses, headers, tackles and positive football.
“At the same time, you have to keep the ball to manage games. A good team and a winning team is one with balance, both in possession and out of possession. We strive to play a brand of football that the fans appreciate.” One way or another, but winning games usually means you have to be offensive. “
‘It’s easy to praise but the players must want to improve’
In many ways, Everton is already mirroring the man in charge with players hungry to prove a point after a summer that left a fan base divided by his arrival and disappointed by the modest draft.
After Monday’s final act of recovery at Goodison Park, Andros Townsend reiterated his coach’s recognized preference for being instructive with his comments in victory, rather than praising his players.
It’s the only way the team can improve, argues Benítez, who has taken the same stance wherever he has driven. With that in mind, how have you found the reaction of this group of players to your tough love approach?
“I think the players are quite happy at the moment,” Benitez said. “It’s easy to praise them for the things they are doing well.
“Maybe Andros scored the goal of the season the other night and I told him later, but by the time the game ended I wanted to tell him other things.
“As a coach, you need the right combination. Of course, I praise them because they are doing very well, but at the same time, I am explaining to them that we can improve. The players appreciate it and are excited to learn.
“Against Burnley, one of the areas where we did not do well was in the corners in the first half. That is something that was clear to me, so when I say we have a lot of room for improvement, it relates to this, between other aspects of our game.
“We have to keep learning and improving. Maybe six months from now, the things that I’m trying to fix now will have been fixed, so we can praise those improvements and focus on other areas.”
Doubting the driving force
A prominent actor in Everton’s rise to the top four has been Abdoulaye Doucoure.
As he embarked on his second season at the club, the midfielder recently received an internal award for August’s goal of the month, a finish lined with a win over Southampton on opening day.
Doucoure hasn’t looked back, thriving in his preferred role as a box-to-box midfielder under Benitez.
The 28-year-old has been involved in four goals in his four Premier League appearances for Everton this season (one goal, three assists), just one fewer than in 29 appearances last season with Carlo Ancelotti (two goals, three assists).
So what does Benítez attribute his greater attack capacity to?
“In general, it comes down to him wanting to do well,” he said. “He has the motivation, the desire and his work rate is fantastic. You can see in every game that he is working so hard.”
“Whenever you talk to him, it is very clear that he wants to improve. He is listening to you and he is taking the messages very well. Yesterday I had another conversation with him and I told him to continue playing with his strengths.”
Allan hasn’t shared the same spotlight, but Doucoure’s midfield partner’s performances haven’t gone unnoticed in the eyes of the Evertonians.
The Brazilian was Ancelotti’s mouthpiece on the pitch, but after concerns about how he would cope with the departure of his mentor, the player has returned to his best form with Benitez.
Allan has the right character to be a leader on the field.
The pair are often seen in deep conversation on the touchline during breaks in the game and the importance Benitez has put into his role as the team’s protective screen has been very apparent in the first month of the season.
“It’s true that I used it a lot to convey my messages to the team,” Benítez said. “It is normal to do this with a player who plays in the middle, but it is even more important to use those who have experience. He has the right character to be a leader on the field.
“When your team scores a goal or is attacking, it is the right opportunity to try to solve some problems on defense. With the noise from the fans, sometimes it is not easy to get the message across. Passing the message from one wing to another is not It’s easy, so Allan knows he has this added responsibility. “
Finding solutions without Calvert-Lewin
Everton will be left without Dominic Calvert-Lewin again this weekend as the English forward continues to rebound from foot and quad injuries that will rule him out for at least another two weeks.
Calvert-Lewin’s absence meant Richarlison was deployed more of a focal point in Burnley’s win, but the Brazilian’s tendency to swerve meant a lack of options in the area during a flat first hour from the hosts.
All that changed during a frenzied seven-minute stretch that tipped the balance in favor of Everton, capped by Demarai Gray’s third goal in as many games.
Gray was even involved in setting up Townsend’s impressive finish when he joined Doucoure and, having shown versatility on the front line, Benitez admits that he wouldn’t hesitate to use the winger down the middle to advance.
“Demarai is definitely someone that I think can play a more central role,” he continued.
“He has the ability, the pace and the understanding of the game in these areas to be a threat. He would be totally different from Dominic, but he is another option that we have.”
“Even Alex Iwobi played in this position for his country, so we have to find solutions. That could even mean playing with two forwards, with [Salomon] Rondon and Richarlison, then we have options.
“The risk as you go through the season is that you can accumulate injuries that leave you short, but right now I feel like we can handle these three.”
Benítez anticipates a stern villa test
The stamina shown in securing maximum points from his two lagged home games will undoubtedly encourage Benítez, but the flip side of earning the most points in the Premier League after losing positions this season is that the team you should improve the way they start. games.
The trip to Aston Villa will provide a good measure of early progress with Benitez, who heads to the Midlands knowing that a win would make this the best start for an Everton manager since Ronald Koeman in 2016.
Turning his attention back to their 550th game in English football in all competitions, Benítez said: “Aston Villa is a very good team that has spent money in recent years, bringing in a lot of offensive players with quality and rhythm.
“Against Chelsea they did well for a while and even from the bench they had skilled players, so I think it’s a good team and the environment will be difficult for us.
“We have to enjoy the fans in the stadium and I am sure that our fans will be there pushing the team. Hopefully the team can continue the good form away from home.”
How to follow Aston Villa vs Everton
Aston Villa vs Everton is live Sky Sports Premier League from 5pm; start 17.30 h. Sky sports Customers can view clips of the game on the Live Match Blog at the Sky sports website and app.
Highlights will also be posted on Sky sports digital platforms and Soccer Sky Sports YouTube channel shortly after the final whistle.