Mason Holgate expects to continue improving under the tutelage of Marco Silva and is embracing the Everton manager’s expressive brand of football.
Defender Holgate was in splendid touch as the Blues defeated Southampton 2-1 on Saturday on what was his first Premier League start since January 20.
The 21-year-old returned to the heart of his team's back four when he received a battlefield promotion following captain Phil Jagielka’s suspension after his red card at Wolverhampton Wanderers last week.
Holgate performed admirably in the Midlands on the back of only one week’s training, with his incisive passing from the back and speed across the ground both fitting neatly into Silva’s progressive model.
And the athletic centre-back stood up resolutely in the face of a Saints team throwing caution to the wind in search of an equaliser after striker Danny Ings had sliced Everton's two-goal advantage in half.
Holgate’s accomplished early-season form is all the more impressive given his limited time working with Silva on the training ground.
“Luckily for me, I have been kept in the loop on what the manager wants us to do and how he wants us to do it,” Holgate told evertontv.
“Although I had not been out there myself I understand what he wants from us.
“And the time I have had on the pitch in these past two games, I have got my head around what is required.
"I think as a back four and as a team we are showing signs of improvement under him.
“You always have to be ready to play because you never know what is going to happen.
“I would not have wanted my chance to come in those circumstances [replacing Jagielka] but when I was called on I had to be ready.”
Holgate started 19 matches in all competitions last term – 13 in the Premier League – and would have added to his tally were it not for an ankle problem which disrupted the second half of his campaign and led to surgery in March. A pre-season setback laid him low for a period but Holgate recovered to join training ahead of the new campaign.
Capped six times by England at Under-21 level, he is contesting Everton's centre-half spots with four international defenders.
English pair Jagielka and Michael Keane, who partnered Holgate at the weekend, started the season against Wolves.
Colombia international Yerry Mina signed from Barcelona on transfer deadline day and will come into the reckoning, while Kurt Zouma was on the bench against Saints after completing a season-long loan move from Chelsea.
Holgate is anticipating the intense competition driving up standards and did all he could to stave off his rivals' claims at the weekend.
He won seven aerial duels and completed four clearances, as well as putting his body in the way of one Southampton shot on target.
The former Barnsley player’s ability on the ball was highlighted when he sent a crisp 40-yard pass zipping into the feet of Gylfi Sigurdsson, prompting a lightning exchange of passes between Sigurdsson and Walcott before the latter fired narrowly off target.
“There are quite a few things the manager expects from his defenders,” said Holgate. “We are playing a high line and on the ball we have been told to play out when we can.
“I like playing out so that is good for me. It was a bit frustrating last season because when I found form I had a bit of an injury and it led to the season fading out for me.
“And when I came back for pre-season that did not go the way I wanted, either. But these kinds of things happen and I am happy to be back now, I am fit and feeling good.
“There is competition in every position which is great. It keeps everybody on their toes and you know if you do not perform there is someone just as able ready to take your position. It keeps you on top of your game.”