Michael Keane says Everton supplying in-form playmaker Gylfi Sigurdsson with the ammunition can be key to inflicting damage on opposition defences.
Club-record signing Sigurdsson has prospered under boss Sam Allardyce, scoring four times during his time at the helm.
The Iceland international's form has been an important factor in the Blues’ impressive run of results at Goodison Park, where Allardyce’s men have picked up 17 points from the last possible 24.
Keane believes ensuring fellow summer signing Sigurdsson is fed possession regularly could prove pivotal to the Toffees improving their results on the road – starting against his former club Burnley at Turf Moor on Saturday (12.30pm kick-off).
“He’s probably been in the best form since he’s been here, scoring important goals and getting assists as well,” the Blues centre-back told evertonfc.com.
“His set-piece delivery is a big bonus for us and he works really hard. He’s a great team player. We need to keep feeding him the ball and hope he creates for us.”
Keane emphasised that Sigurdsson’s outstanding ball-striking is not just down to the Icelander’s immense natural talent – but also a product of his relentless work on the training pitch.
Keane says he’s now hoping to capitalise on the 28-year-old’s wicked dead-ball deliveries.
“I expect myself to score more goals than I have this season,” he admits. “I’ve had a few chances where I know I could’ve done better so it’s something I’m working on. Hopefully at the weekend I can get on the end of one of Gylfi’s crosses and put it in the net. He trains really hard, he’s always out there doing his extra free-kicks and I think that shows on matchdays.”
Sigurdsson is not the only one of Everton’s summer signings now playing his best football in a blue shirt. Toffees boss Allardyce has said Keane is “getting better and better”, with the 25-year-old starting eight of the past 10 Premier League games.
During this period, the Manchester United youth product has played alongside Ashley Williams, Eliaquim Mangala, Mason Holgate and skipper Phil Jagielka at the heart of the Blues defence. And while Keane admits there are benefits to having a settled partnership at centre-back, he says the quality of his defensive counterparts makes the adjustment easier.
“They’ve all got their own attributes and I enjoy playing with everyone,” he said.
“In general, it’s easier to stick to the same back four or back two because you get to know each other a bit better but it shouldn’t affect you too much when you change. You train with each other every day so should be used to playing with everyone, and I think that’s the case.”
A win at Turf Moor on Saturday would see Everton go level on points with seventh-placed Burnley, and Keane is eager to shine at a ground where he so impressed for three years.
His consistently excellent performances for the Clarets earned him a first England cap in October 2016, and he admits he’s relishing going back to the club which was so crucial in his development.
“It was the best experience I could get [playing at Burnley],” Keane said. “All the fans were fantastic with me and I am looking forward to seeing them all at the weekend.
“But, hopefully, we can get the win for Everton, which is the main thing. It is a massive game for us and if we win we will go level on points with them. We will be looking to do that.”