Michael Keane says striker Cenk Tosun can help Everton play “more expansive football” and it feels like the Toffees' squad has been given a significant boost by “a few 'new signings'”.
Turkey international Tosun became boss Sam Allardyce’s first recruit last week and could potentially make his debut for the Blues in their Premier League clash with Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday.
Allardyce is also likely to be able to call on Yannick Bolasie and James McCarthy for the trip to London after the pair both made eye-catching returns from injury over the festive period.
Winger Bolasie has featured in all three of Everton’s Premier League games since Christmas Day and accelerated his comeback by impressing in last Friday’s FA Cup tie with Liverpool – his first 90-minute outing since November 2016.
The dynamic McCarthy played 86 minutes at Anfield, having started his first league match in more than 10 months in the Toffees’ clash with Bournemouth on 30 December – and starred from the bench against Manchester United on New Year’s Day.
Keane suffered a nasty cut to his foot in that meeting with former club United, a particularly untimely blow for the defender, who missed last week's Merseyside derby after playing four matches on the spin.
Everton have conceded only six goals in Allardyce’s eight Premier League matches in charge. But Keane says the players share their manager’s determination to improve on a scoring record that has seen the Blues hit the net eight times in the same period.
“I think you can see the difference [from earlier in the season] in the way we set up in games now,” Keane told evertonfc.com.
“We are much harder to break down and to beat, which is a massive positive. We just need to be more expansive going forward when we have the ball.
“I think that will happen. The new signing, Cenk, is definitely going to help us in that respect and, hopefully, he will hit the ground running for us.
“I feel like the squad is getting much bigger. It actually feels like we have a few new signings – even though we have only made one.
“Yannick was out for such a long time and James has been brilliant since he has come back into the team. They are like new players and having them back is a massive bonus for us.
“We have had a lot of games, and having those extra players gives us more fresh legs and the manager an opportunity to change things around a little bit when he needs to.
“And we have players still to come back. We hope Seamus Coleman will be back in the not too distant future and have other great players to step in who have not been playing, so we can only improve.”
Keane admits his current injury is doubly frustrating, given he has already suffered one setback this season – a similar problem sustained against Sunderland back in September.
For a player who appeared 44 times in Burnley’s 2015/16 Championship-winning campaign, and started and finished 35 Premier League matches last term as the Clarets comfortably survived on their top-flight return, being forced to the sidelines is a new experience.
He nevertheless expects to his current lay-off to be a short one and is targeting a strong finish to his first season at Goodison Park.
Furthermore, centre-back Keane aims to do his bit in front of goal as well. His only Everton strike so far came in the Europa League qualifying encounter with Hajduk Split, although the 24-year-old nearly doubled his tally in the closing stages of the recent draw with Chelsea when he headed Gylfi Sigurdsson’s corner narrowly over the bar.
“In the past few games I played I got in the right positions and had a few headers at goal,” said Keane.
“I should have scored against Chelsea, I should have done better there. I have the physicality, I just need to keep getting myself in the right positions and, with the quality of delivery we have, I will get chances and score goals.
“But I will be working on my heading in training!
“We have not set any specific goals as a team yet. We just need to improve our performances, especially going forward – and I think if we do that we will start to win more games.
“A club like Everton should always be in the top half of the table... at the very least.”
Keane’s fitness issues have been put in perspective by the injury troubles suffered by twin-brother Will, a striker with Hull City.
Will Keane damaged his knee in November 2016, three months after signing for the Tigers from Manchester United.
He was at Goodison to watch Michael in action against the Red Devils last week – before making a scoring return to action for Hull’s Under-23s against Crewe Alexandra on Monday night.
“It has been difficult to see him struggle, but he is a really strong character and never seems too down about it,” said Keane.
“He found it tough initially, but he has just got on with it and worked really hard. To see him back is brilliant.
“He is in full training now and the plan was always for him to play 30 minutes on Monday night. He is doing really well.
"Hopefully he can stay fit now and get a consistent run of games – and show everyone what he can do.”