Ryan Astley is confident Everton Under-23s can turn around the “small margins” which have proved costly in recent narrow defeats when the young Blues host Arsenal on Sunday (1pm GMT).
The clash at Southport FC’s Pure Stadium is being streamed live on our official YouTube channel, with coverage starting at 12.45pm.
Everton are aiming to get back on the winning track following successive 2-1 losses at Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea.
Centre-back Astley, 19, says “defending as a unit and staying together as a team” will hold the key to success against Arsenal, declaring his belief the Blues’ attacking talents can trouble any team in Premier League 2.
Everton go into the game seventh in the division, three places and five points ahead of the Gunners.
“It’s a really important game for us,” Astley told evertontv.
“In both games we’ve lost over the past two weeks [against Spurs and Chelsea], we feel it’s been the small margins that have been the difference.
“We’re going out to put them right and we have full confidence we can do that.
“We need to stay more focused throughout the whole game. We need to get into our shape, stay compact and be together as a team.
“Arsenal are going to have spells of possession. But we have our own threats and we know we can score goals with the quality of forwards we have got.
“We know we’ve got good players and are capable of beating them.”
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HIGHLIGHTS: EVERTON UNDER-18S 4-2 WIGAN ATHLETIC UNDER-18S
Astley has been training regularly with the Everton First Team in recent weeks.
The Welshman offered an insight into the positive atmosphere created by Carlo Ancelotti and his coaching staff at USM Finch Farm – and outlined how testing himself against top-class international footballers has advanced his game.
“It quickens your football brain,” he explains. “You can improve so much playing up there [with senior players]. It’s such a good standard.
“And when you come back down to the Under-23s, you keep trying to keep your level same – the tempo you play at and everything else.
“In training [under Ancelotti], everyone knows you have to put 100 per cent in every time. He is also very good with the players – his man-management is so good.
“He knows when to pick people out to speak to them. He is very clever.
“He’s definitely created a winning mentality. In everything we do, you have to win.”
Sunday's clash with Arsenal represents the young Blues’ final game before the international break, with Astley in line to feature for Wales Under-21s against the Republic of Ireland on Friday 26 March.
He will be joined in the Under-21s squad by Everton teammate Rhys Hughes, whose impressive Toffees form has been rewarded with a maiden call-up.
“I love playing for Wales,” added Astley.
“It’s one of my favourite things. I’m Welsh through and through!
“I’m made up for Rhys, too. He has done really well this season and he deserves to be there.
“Hopefully he can take this chance and keep doing what he’s doing for Everton in a Wales shirt.”
Watch Everton Under-23s v Arsenal Under-23s live on our Official YouTube channel on Sunday from 12.45pm.