Abdoulaye Doucoure is relishing the prospect of shouldering a greater attacking responsibility for Everton manager Rafa Benitez.
Frenchman Doucoure is poised for his second Everton campaign after playing 34 matches last season following a move from Watford.
He was predominantly employed in a deep-midfield position in 2020/21 but Benitez is keen to release the shackles and profit from the player’s ability to influence games in the final third of the field.
Doucoure directly contributed to 22 Premier League goals – scoring 12 – across seasons 2017/18 and 2018/19.
And he is optimistic of improving last term's numbers – three goals and three assists in all competitions – after digesting instructions from his new boss.
“I arrived at Everton and didn’t play [tactically] like I did in Watford,” said Doucoure.
“Last season, I had a deeper role, more defensive than at Watford.
“I had the same skills but needed to adapt.
“This season, I think I am going to be more forward and attacking.
“The manager wants me to be more offensive
“The first time we met, he explained my strengths and what I have to do.
“We have spoken a lot on the training pitch, he told me I have to go forward and score more goals.
“It is one of my main qualities as a player and I want to enjoy that this season.
“I can be in the box more, create a lot of chances and be in the final third to score more goals.
“I am practising this and will do it on matchdays.
“He [Benitez] is a great manager and has given me lots of advice and I am happy with that.”
Doucoure’s value to Everton in his debut season is reflected in the statistic which shows he won more than half the Premier League games he played.
There were 15 victories and four draws from 29 appearances, as the player swiftly adjusted to his new surroundings following a transfer that was completed days before the campaign got under way.
But ahead of the forthcoming Premier League season, which Everton start against Southampton at Goodison Park on Saturday, Doucoure maintains there is plenty of scope for improvement.
“The first season was good, personally,” said Doucoure.
“I needed to adapt well, I played around 30 games and was very happy with that.
“The second season, I have to be better, I know the Club and my teammates and have to improve my game.
“I recognise what were my good and bad games last season.
“I know how to improve and what I can improve.
“The second season should be better for me.”
Doucoure had his momentum checked in the latter part of last season when a foot injury – sustained during a win at West Bromwich Albion – ruled him out of seven matches.
He returned in time to play in front of 6,500 Evertonians in the final Goodison fixture, against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
His only previous experiences of playing for the Club in front of home supporters had come when 2,000 fans watched pre-Christmas victories over Chelsea and Arsenal.
Doucoure has sampled a full Goodison as a Watford player, however, and remembers his old side conceding a stoppage-time equaliser in the stadium in December 2018.
And this weekend, the player is set for an overdue opportunity to play in front of a partisan support, with Goodison sold-out for Southampton’s visit.
“Last season, we lost so many games at home and it wouldn’t have happened with the fans there,” said Doucoure.
“We are so happy to have them back and I hope they will give us the boost we need, at home especially.
“Sometimes, the pressure [from supporters] can give you a big boost.
“I played at a full Goodison and in the final minute Everton scored a goal, we were winning 2-1, but drew 2-2. The fans give that [spur] to the players.
“I am excited to see Goodison full.
“The supporters give so much energy to the team and you know they will be on your side all the way through.”