Ashley Williams says the exceptional quality of Gylfi Sigurdsson will be vital to Everton’s attempts to emulate their impressive Goodison Park form away from home.
Club-record signing Sigurdsson scored the first goal of manager Sam Allardyce’s reign and has produced his best football in a blue shirt since the manager took charge in November.
The-28-year-old has scored four times during Allardyce's time at the helm and, given a licence to roam forward by his boss, been an influential figure in the Toffees picking up 17 points from the past 24 available on their own ground.
Defeat at Watford on Saturday, however, means the Blues continue to search to replicate their home form on the road - having collected five points and conceded only one goal in their first three away fixtures under Allardyce.
The Toffees go to Burnley on Saturday, targeting the win which would draw them level on points with the seventh-placed Clarets.
And Williams, a colleague of Sigurdsson’s at Swansea before the pair were reunited on Merseyside back in August, knows his gifted teammate could hold the key to prising open Burnley’s famously cussed rearguard.
“I knew he was a quality signing and really good player,” Williams told evertontv. “I know him well and we have seen on a number of occasions what he can do.
“He will be frustrated he could not get more of a clear opening or a goal at Watford but in these kinds of tight matches you need players like him. He is crucial for us and comes up with some extremely important goals.
“Burnley is going to be another difficult game. We need to defend like we did for most of the match at Watford – if not better.
“And with the talent and quality we have going forward, we need to do better in that department as well.”
Sigurdsson has scored a league-high 17 goals from outside the box in his six years playing in England’s top-flight.
He introduced himself to Evertonians by scoring a staggering long-range goal – measured at 57 yards – on his full debut for the Club in the Europa League tie with Hajduk Split.
And after ensuring Allardyce got off to the best possible start by breaking the deadlock in a 2-0 win over Huddersfield Town, he subsequently added accomplished finishes from distance in successes against Swansea City and Crystal Palace.
But while Wales international captain Williams is delighted Everton can lean on Sigurdsson’s penchant for the spectacular, he acknowledges any away success is founded on a resilient backline.
The 33-year-old – who featured for all bar 45 minutes of Allardyce's opening six matches, when the Toffees were unbeaten and conceded just twice – returned to Everton’s back four as a substitute in the 3-1 win over Crystal Palace earlier this month.
He completed 90 minutes against Watford, where he was partnered by Michael Keane, the 25-year-old starting his eighth Premier League match out of the past 10 and turning in an assured display.
“I thought Michael did really well against a tough Watford front three,” said Williams.
“I was really disappointed for him and the whole team that we did not get the clean sheet we wanted so much.
“Michael has done well. He has had a run in the team – he plays for England and is obviously a top-quality player. I am happy he is doing well.
“I was personally disappointed to lose the game and not get that clean sheet but when I play I will do my best and try to get clean sheets and win the game for us.
“We need to be better all round on Saturday and try to win that game.”