Anthony Gordon is working exhaustively to match Carlo Ancelotti’s defensive expectations and muscle his way into Everton’s team.
Teenage forward Gordon spoke exclusively to Everton’s matchday programme for Sunday’s FA Cup fourth-round tie with Sheffield Wednesday – after making his third start this term against Rotherham United in round three.
He played 11 Premier League games last term after a debut at West Ham United in January.
Out of the team at the outset of this campaign, Gordon asked his manager what he needed to improve to regain a spot.
Those discussions have continued and Gordon is heeding Ancelotti’s instruction to marry his offensive instincts with defensive discipline.
“I need to be a consistently reliable defender for the team,” said Gordon, whose four assists in all competitions this term have come at a rate of one every 71 minutes.
“That is what I’d say I need to improve – and what the manager has said to me.
“I work hard on it every day.
“It has to come from me, no one else can do it for me.
“If I really want to improve and that is my weakness, it is up to me to focus on it and make it a strong point.
“I think I press really well because I am eager to win back the ball and go and attack.
“Where I need to improve is getting back into shape quicker and being harder to beat, instead of pressing, then waiting and not getting back into shape – being the odd one out.”
Gordon began his first Premier League match this season in the Boxing Day victory at Sheffield United.
He left Bramall Lane with mixed feelings: rueing a missed opportunity to “dominate the game” but “proud of how I played defensively” on a filthy night weather-wise – and in a match decided by the finest of margins.
The 19-year-old, who graduated from Everton’s Academy after joining aged 11, had his next opportunity in the Cup meeting with Rotherham.
He created Everton's opening goal for Cenk Tosun by employing his quick feet and vision to slide through an exquisite pass for the Turkish striker.
But, by his own admission, Gordon – who trains three times a day – ran out of steam after his bright start.
“I was tired really early in the game,” said Gordon.
“Playing matches is a completely different sort of fitness.
“Your mind is 100 per cent in a game, you can’t train that.
“You can’t do it until you are in the moment and feeling every emotion during the game.
“I showed glimpses of quality but not enough, I was quite disappointed in myself.
“I got an assist and we ended up winning, so it wasn’t too bad.
“Playing a Championship team, which was quite defensive minded, I felt I could have really got at them, but my fitness levels just weren’t there.
“It was a step, at least, and I want build on that.”
Read the full interview with Anthony Gordon in Everton’s matchday programme for Sunday’s FA Cup fourth-round tie with Sheffield Wednesday.
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