Michael Keane says he is enjoying his best time at Everton as he revealed his excitement about the “progressive, attacking football” the Blues are playing under Marco Silva.
The centre-back revealed the manager and his coaching staff have helped to create a vibrant, encouraging environment at the Club – and believes the Blues are well placed to build on the momentum created by back-to-back Premier League victories.
England international Keane has been a figure of consistent excellence this season, defending resolutely while laying the foundation for attacks with his sharp, accurate passing.
No player in the Everton team has blocked more shots than the 25-year-old and only fellow centre-back Mason Holgate has made more clearances than the former Burnley man.
Keane’s quality in possession, meanwhile, is emphasised by his impressive 83-per-cent pass success rate so far this term.
He also stepped seamlessly back into the Blues' defence just four weeks after suffering a hairline skull fracture in Everton's 2-2 draw at Bournemouth - a game where he netted his first Toffees goal in the league.
Keane admits his confidence has soared after a succession of commanding performances and believes he will only improve under the tutelage of boss Silva.
“I think, consistently, it’s the best time I’ve had here,” said the 2017 summer signing from Burnley.
“The new manager has obviously brought new ideas and he’s been brilliant. We know our roles exactly what we’re doing on and off the ball, so we’re really organised going into games.
“Training is really hard and intense so I feel fit. I feel fitter than I did last season. All little things add up to you playing well. And the more you play well, the more the team wins, the more confident you get, and that just keeps growing and growing.
“It’s a good feeling to be confident and go out on the pitch and feeling like you’re going to perform well every time you step on there. That’s how I’m feeling at the moment. I just need to make that continue.”
Keane has been an assured, authoritative presence alongside Kurt Zouma at centre-back as Everton have racked up successive Premier League wins – first sweeping aside Fulham 3-0 at Goodison Park before securing an impressive 2-1 victory at Leicester City.
Blues boss Silva declared the enterprising display at the King Power Stadium was “an image” of how he wants his team to play – and Keane believes Toffees’ identity under the Portuguese is beginning to emerge.
He says the players are relishing the opportunity to express themselves on the pitch.
“The style of play is something we have been working on since the first day of pre-season,” he said.
“It was obviously going to take time because things don’t happen straight away but I think you can see the patterns we play now. We try to play attacking, progressive football on the floor.
“We are also not afraid to go long when we have to because it’s important that you to mix it up sometimes. I think the fans will be really happy with the way we have been performing - we’ve had a few good results and we want that to continue.
“I’m loving it at Everton. The spirit around the place is really good, the manager has been brilliant, as have all his staff.
“They’ve brought a good attitude around the place and they’ve helped the team spirit. all the new lads who have come in are top guys and everyone is getting on really well.
“There’s a lot of competition for places which is good, the team are performing well, we’re winning games now. They are all positive signs.
“We know we’re going to have tough moments, that’s football, you’ve got to deal with that. I think we’ve had a few already this season and come through it, so hopefully we can kick on from here.”
Everton’s victory over Leicester last time out saw Keane’s close friend Gylfi Sigurdsson produce a goal of the season contender.
After brilliantly turning Foxes midfielder James Maddison, the Icelander unleashed a spectacular long-range effort that arrowed into the top corner.
The goal was Sigurdsson’s fifth already this campaign, while he has also created more chances (23) than another Premier League player.
Keane believes the Blues’ Club-record signing is another benefitting from Silva’s forward-thinking philosophy.
“It was a brilliant strike [against Leicester],” he said. “Luckily I was right behind it. It was an unbelievable goal.
“I think he has always prepared to play that number 10 position and I think it brings the best out of him.
“Last year he had to do a job for the team a lot of the time, out on the wing, and that’s where you can spend a lot of your energy running back to your own goal, so when you get the ball it’s really hard to express yourself.
“In that number 10 role you can see what he brings to the team - he creates goals, is scoring goals and his set-piece delivery is massive for us.”
Next for the Blues is a home clash with Crystal Palace on Sunday, as the Toffees strive to secure a third top-flight victory on the spin.
In contrast to Everton, the Eagles have lost their past two Premier League matches. Roy Hodgson’s side were edged out 2-1 by Bournemouth on 1 October, before slipping to a 1-0 home defeat by Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Keane insists there is no danger of the Toffees taking their foot of the gas against Palace, insisting “we know we have to be on it”.
And he is confident the all-round quality in the squad can see the Blues emerge with maximum points.
“It’s down to us to impose ourselves on the game,” he said. “We are at home and need to be on the front-foot straight away. We need to take the game to them. It’s a big opportunity for us to put three wins in a row together.
“We know Palace are a good team and we won’t underestimate them but, playing at Goodison with our fans behind us, it’s a great opportunity for us to do that.