Post by Everton News. on Nov 22, 2021 12:35:24 GMT
BENITEZ: CONFIDENCE KEY FOR EVERTON UPTURN
Rafa Benitez is adamant Everton will “stick together” and relish the challenge of a relentless run of fixtures over the next six weeks.
Manager Benitez’s side lost their first fixture after this month’s international break, going down 3-0 at champions Manchester City on Sunday.
The Spaniard admitted Everton missed composure and precision on the counter-attack against City – and they weren’t helped by the enforced withdrawal of lightning forward Demarai Gray after only 17 minutes.
Everton, who were without first-choice number 9 Dominic Calvert-Lewin and midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure against Pep Guardiola’s team, remain 11th in the Premier League standings.
They go to Brentford in seven days, ushering in a period of nine fixtures in 35 days, before home meetings with Liverpool and Arsenal.
“We know that we have to go to January in a good position, then with players coming back it will be easier for us to compete against anyone,” said Benitez.
“In the meantime, we have to try to stick together, be strong and then be sure we approach the games with the confidence that we can win and get points. Then, go to January with a good position in the table.
“Clearly it has to be different [against Brentford]. Today it was about having to defend with intensity and trying to play on the counter-attack. In the end it was not working because the other team was good. If you play against Brentford, it has to be totally different.”
Everton resisted City pressure for 44 minutes but fell behind when Raheem Sterling clinically met a fabulous defence-splitting pass from Joao Cancelo.
The visitors maintained their policy of trying to catch City on the break and intermittently threatened to undo the home team.
But City midfielder Rodri walloped home from 30 yards nine minutes after the restart to give Everton a mountain to climb, a task heightened by the absence of Gray, who pulled up with a muscle problem.
Bernardo Silva profited from a ricochet in the box to prod home City’s third on 86 minutes.
“Demarai Gray is one of our most dangerous players on the counter-attack and he had one chance one-v-one with a defender, when you don’t have that [Gray's threat] you are missing something, but with the players we had up front we had to create more,” said Benitez, who will be without Richarlison at Brentford after the Brazilian attacker received a fifth booking of the campaign against City.
“The goal at the end of the first half changed things, you don't want to concede, but when you concede you don't want it to be at the end of the first half. With the quality they showed for the goal, it is difficult to stop that.
“When you don't concede and have a clean sheet in the first half, you can approach the second half in another way. Conceding at the end is not easy for the mentality of the players but we still started well in the second half.
"But [when trailing] you have to take more risks and are more exposed and they had more chances on the counter."
City, aiming for a fourth Premier League title in five years, moved within three points of the summit following their victory.
But Benitez rejected the idea that the identity of Everton's conquerors made defeat easier to swallow.
“I don't like to lose against anyone, it doesn't matter about the name of the team," added the former Valencia boss.
"You have to be a threat on the counter-attack in these kinds of games, we had our chances without creating too much, and it it a matter of time after defending [for prolonged periods] before you make a mistake.
“We tried, we had two or three situations in the first half when we didn't do well enough on the counter, it was just defending, and normally you lose these games.”
Post by Everton News. on Nov 23, 2021 15:01:07 GMT
Pickford sets Everton target
Jordan Pickford says Everton must “refresh” and retain their focus ahead of a first visit to Brentford Community Stadium on Sunday.
Goalkeeper Pickford maintained his own impeccable form in the weekend defeat at Manchester City, producing a pair of terrific one-on-one stops during a game where Everton resisted the Premier League champions until the stroke of half-time.
There was no coming back following Raheem Sterling’s 44th-minute strike, however, and Everton head for Brentford, contesting their first top-flight season in 74 years, searching for three points and a potential return to the top half of the table.
Rafa Benitez will pick a side in West London without a host of important figures, including Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison, the manager’s first-choice strike pairing at the beginning of the season, and indefatigable midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure.
“We are all Premier League players and all have the quality,” said Pickford.
“We have had a few injuries but people get an opportunity to come in and we all have to take those opportunities.
“We are all capable of playing and when the manager picks his XI we have to perform.
“You know you are up against it at City, they are a top side and won the title and reached the Champions League final last season.
“We conceded three, which we were not happy about, and didn’t convert our counter-attacking opportunities, or get a shot on target to hurt [City goalkeeper] Ederson.
“The manager sets you up every week and you trust that plan and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
“We have to move forward, let the dust settle and work hard all week.
“We need to be calm and refresh for Brentford on Sunday.”
Pickford made his 300th senior club appearance in the meeting with City. More than half of those games – 173 – came for Everton, the club he joined from Sunderland in summer 2017.
The 27-year-old established himself as this country’s best keeper following his Goodison Park move and reached a World Cup semi-final and European Championship final with England in the past three years.
He reported back to Everton to confront City’s supercharged attack after celebrating his 42nd cap with a 21st clean sheet in a World Cup qualifying victory over Albania this month
Pickford stood tall to deny Bernardo Silva at close quarters and spread himself to stop Sterling tapping in a second goal.
Sterling’s earlier strike paved the way for Rodri to rifle in an unstoppable long-range effort after half time, midfielder Silva popping up in the box late on to toe home and complete the scoring.
Everton's first chance to respond to Sunday's setback comes against newly-promoted Brentford, who have won three and drawn four of 12 Premier League games this term.
“Manchester City are such a good team, we tried to make it hard for them to get through us but sometimes they will get through and that is when I am going to be called on and need to be in the moment,” said Pickford.
“They scored just before half-time, which hurt us a bit.
“We reset as a team [during half-time], we are mentally tough, but they were the better side and we have to give them credit, the football they play is incredible.
“Some games don’t go your way and you have to focus on the next one.
“We are all human [so feel down after losing] but it is about working hard every day and giving 100 percent on the training pitch, which we do.
“It is about Brentford now. Every game in the Premier League is tough but we need to get a result next weekend.”
Everton are growing increasingly hopeful that Demarai Gray's injury is not as bad as initially feared.
The Blues' forward lasted just 17 minutes against Manchester City on Sunday before being forced off with an abductor injury.
When asked about the extent of the problem, following the 3-0 defeat at the Etihad Stadium, Rafa Benitez was unable to shed any light and simply said: "We will see".
But there is belief at Finch Farm that Gray could be back sooner than expected after it was suggested earlier this week that the 25-year-old could possibly be sidelined until January. Gray remains a major doubt for Sunday's crunch clash with Brentford and will continued to be assessed but there has, so far, been no firm indication from Finch Farm that the summer signing has been ruled out of the game.
Benitez is expected to face the media on Friday afternoon, where he will offer an update on Gray's fitness.
Everton are hoping Yerry Mina is passed fit to play in London at the weekend.
The Colombian centre-half has missed the last four league matches because of a hamstring issue but it is believed he was left out as a precaution. The Blues will be without Richarlison on Sunday, after the Brazilian picked up a fifth booking of the season in the defeat to Man City and so must now serve a one match ban.