Oumar Niasse has revealed how competition with Cenk Tosun to impress manager Sam Allardyce is “pushing me to increase my levels” and that the strike duo are working together to “do our best for the Club”.
Niasse was pleased to see January signing Tosun forcefully head home his first Toffees goal at Burnley last weekend – and insists the battle to earn a spot in Allardyce’s first XI can benefit the forward duo and the Blues.
Senegal international Niasse had led the line in Everton’s previous four matches and scored in the recent 3-1 Goodison Park success over Crystal Palace, a win which extended the team's impressive run of form on home turf. Allardyce’s men welcome Brighton & Hove Albion to Merseyside on Saturday, having collected 20 points from the past 27 available at Goodison.
Tosun started for the third time since joining from Turkish club Besitkas in the game at Turf Moor, and was on target with a clinical finish after the overlapping Seamus Coleman helped Theo Walcott’s cross into his path.
“I was really pleased for Cenk and it is always good for the team to have more competition,” Niasse told evertonfc.com.
“He is a good guy. Since he arrived here, he has been progressing. He is learning about the league and about England. He is a very good player. Seeing him scoring and his confidence coming back is helping everyone in the Club.
“And it helps me as a striker to push myself to do more training and increase my levels. Having players who can compete with you helps you improve.”
Tosun's previous starts had come against Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion in the month of his arrival. But the benefits of working intensely with boss Allarydce and his experienced backroom staff during the Toffees' February training camp in Dubai were borne out by Tosun's robust display against the Clarets.
Only two players across the Premier League weekend had more shots on target than Tosun, who also created two chances for his teammates – another figure bettered by only two top-flight contemporaries.
Moreover, Tosun’s 74.1 per cent pass-completion rate was the highest among the Toffees’ starting XI, while he came out on top in 62.5 per cent of the duels he contested.
Niasse earned his recent run in the side by coming off the bench to thump home an equaliser in the clash with West Brom. He has scored seven goals and provided three assists in 17 Premier League outings this term, with eight of those appearances from the bench.
But when he conjured memories of playing against Tosun, the 27-year-old expected to have to fight tooth and nail with his new colleague for game time.
The pair twice faced off in the Turkish Super Lig in 2013/14 – when Niasse’s Akhisar Belediyespor met Besiktas – and again when Besiktas were paired with Niasse’s next club, Lokomotiv Moscow in the 2015/16 Europa League.
“I remembered him and what a good player he was,” said Niasse. “We were in different situations at the time but it was clear he was a really strong player.
“And now we both want to work together to do everything for the best of the Club. We must fight and give our best on the pitch every time.
“If I am playing that is good, very good. If not, then I understand. I wait on the bench. If I have an opportunity to come on, I will give my best, even if it is 10 minutes or five minutes.
“If I do not come on, I will be in training the next day, ready to fight for the next weekend.
“I just want to try to help the team as much as I can."