Skipper Phil Jagielka says this week’s warm weather training camp in Dubai has allowed Everton’s players to learn more about new teammates Theo Walcott and Cenk Tosun - both on and off the pitch.
The duo, who arrived on permanent deals last month from Arsenal and Besiktas respectively, are part of the squad who jetted out to the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday.
A gruelling series of intense training sessions have been punctuated by opportunities for the players to spend downtime together away from the camp - a benefit of the trip highlighted by both manager Sam Allardyce and Performance Director Dr Ryland Morgans.
Tosun and Walcott are two of 12 first-team players signed by Everton since the opening of the January transfer window in 2017.
And while impressed by the speed with which the attacking duo have integrated themselves into the Blues’ dressing room, defender Jagielka says the time away has been an opportunity for the entire squad to do some valuable bonding.
“They [Tosun and Walcott] have settled in pretty easily,” the 35-year-old England international told evertontv. “I’ve spoken to both of them about it. Theo’s just moving his family and getting them settled, which is always the hardest thing. But, on the pitch, he’s hit the ground running, scored a couple of goals, got an assist, and it’s the same with Cenk.
“He’s obviously not had as much game time but he’s settled in really well, speaks very good English and seems like one of the boys straight away.
“When you’ve got such a big squad, it’s difficult for everyone to spend time together. That might sound odd because we see each other every day but normally there’s not much downtime after training and everyone has different routines.
“Obviously coming away together forces your hand in that way and it’s good to sit with different people round the breakfast table, the lunch table… when we’re not training we’ve got lads on the beach swimming, playing games, listening to different types of music. It just means everyone can settle in a lot easier.”
Everton return from Dubai on Monday to ramp up their preparations for next weekend’s trip to Watford, before a second successive away game against Burnley on 3 March.
Watford currently sit four points and two places below the Toffees in ninth, while Sean Dyche’s Clarets are two places and two points above in seventh.
Allardyce’s side can take confidence into the fixtures from a run that has seen them glean 17 points from the last 24 available at Goodison Park.
And Jagielka, veteran of over 360 games for the Toffees, now wants the stellar home form to be replicated on the road.
“We need to improve the away form,” he said. “I don’t think we drastically change much about the way we play away from home but, for whatever reason, the results have been different and it’s been that way for some time now, not just this season.
“The manager will be looking to turn that around between now and the end of the campaign and hopefully come up with a formula for us to go and win more games away from home.
“We’ve got 11 games left and we’ve got to go out there and win as many as we can. We’ve always said we want to finish in the top half, we’ve got ourselves in there and now we want to try to stay there and climb a little bit more if possible.
“Everyone has been training hard for that out here. It’s sometimes been difficult to train in this heat but the boys have dealt with it well and it’s been a really valuable trip.”