Willie Kirk Column: Cup Final Prep And Reasons For Everton's Flying Start

In his latest column for evertonfc.com, Willie Kirk discusses how his squad is preparing for the FA Cup final a week on Sunday in the midst of an international break, the key factors behind the Blues' outstanding start to the campaign, and why managing Everton at Wembley will be a career high....

We have a lot of players away on international duty at the moment but, for the players who are still here at USM Finch Farm, we’re using this week to make sure, physically, they are in a good place, as well as trying to improve them on an individual level.

And in the background, we’ve been working on organisation in the build-up to the cup final and analysing Manchester City.

It’s a little bit strange for the players with us this week, because we have so many away with their countries.

We have dropped a couple of incentives into training, though. When the players are getting tired, we’ve told them, ‘Look, imagine it’s the last five minutes against Man City at Wembley’.

But next week is when the real cup final prep will begin.

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03:38 Mon 19 Oct 2020

HIGHLIGHTS: EVERTON WOMEN 2-2 BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION

Christiansen and Gauvin on target as unbeaten Blues held by stubborn Seagulls.


FIERCE COMPETITION DRIVING SUCCESS

We’ve had an excellent start to the season – four wins from five matches in the WSL, as well as reaching the cup final.

Competition for places has been key. The players have been absolutely fantastic with their application, pushing each other every day.

The players know they have to perform in training, never mind in games, just to get on the pitch. The training intensity has been superb. It’s allowed us to play in a certain way.

As a team, they have been very impressive. There has not been one individual who has stood out, it’s very much been about the group.

For the most part, we’ve been very solid defensively and we’ve also got a lot of attacking firepower.

Goals are being spread around. That was an area we had to improve on from last season and all the statistics show that we have. We’ve had nine different goalscorers already this season.

The difficulty for opposition defences is they don’t know where the threat is coming from. That threat can come from the left-hand side one minute, then the centre or right flank the next minute. That’s certainly something we’ve capitalised on.

WHY TACTICAL AWARENESS IS KEY

Technically, you look at Man City and they have a squad full of top, top talent.

But I think we’re capable of matching them.

Technically, we have got a lot of good players, too. We’ll continue to improve and we’ll need to fine tune some things.

Our players are in a fantastic place physically, with their pace, strength and power.

Against City, we will need to be tactically astute and tactically flexible.

If we’re to get the result we’re looking for, we will have to be very switched on and have cool heads at the right times.

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06:29

RASO V SORENSEN IN INTERNATIONAL DUEL

Everton duo go head-to-head to prove who knows more about each other's respective countries.


‘MORE THAN ELEVEN’

Picking the starting XI for the cup final will not be an easy task, because we have so many players in good form.

It will be hugely disappointing for some players, there’s no getting away from that. But you could start and have a bad game or come on in the last five minutes and score the winner.

Everybody has to understand there could be a role to play for them, put that disappointment to the side, and make sure they’re ready to play their part in the game.

We have players who have experience of being left out of the starting line-up, but have still had an important impact as a sub. We’ll make sure those experiences are shared among the group.

SAVOURING THE OCCASION

Managing Everton in an FA Cup final will be a very proud moment for me – right at the very top in terms of achievements in my career.

It’s a massive shame that we won’t have supporters there.

For me, there’s a personal disappointment because I’d have loved my new-born son to be there. If we were to lift the trophy, he’d be the first person you want to see. You want to cherish those moments and pictures in the future.

But, from a professional perspective, I will be very proud to manage this team at Wembley – and it is certainly something I won’t be taking for granted. FA Cup finals don’t come around every year, even for top teams.

We need to savour the occasion – but we’ll enjoy it a whole lot more if we win.