Anthony Gordon says he is continually improving under a manager in Rafa Benitez who “simplifies football for me” – and the 20-year-old is ready to enter a four-way fight for the wide positions in Everton’s team.
Attacker Gordon started for the first time this season at QPR on Tuesday and grabbed the opportunity to press his claims for more regular action.
Gordon was fast and direct on Everton’s left flank in an energetic performance that belied a paucity of recent gametime.
He had been limited to two short appearances from the bench this term after spending the second half of last season with Preston North End.
That loan spell in the Championship, says Gordon, coupled with the tutelage of Benitez, has moulded a more rounded player who is capable of muscling into the Spaniard’s Everton team.
“Today’s game has a lot of tactics and can be a bit over thought but this manager simplifies football for me and, in my opinion, is making me a better player,” Gordon told evertontv.
“Whether I’ve had the best or worst training session, he always talks to me at the end.
“If I have had the best session ever, he’ll still be telling me, ‘You could have done this better, next time do this’.
“He is keeping me on my toes and I am always improving, which is what I love to do.
“He knows my personality and character. I think my training shows I am always ready to play and it is good he has recognised that.
“The loan was up and down, a mixed bag, but when I got back, I was definitely a better player.
“I feel I matured as a player and person, so it was a successful period.
“I had a really good pre-season and am doing the other stuff, the dirty parts, working hard and running back.
“I am better going forward and more mature in the final third.
“I know when to dribble at the defender, when to lay it off or cut inside and cross, or link with Lucas [Digne].
“I have that little bit of experience in and around the box.”
Gordon is competing in a loaded field for those positions on the flanks.
Andros Townsend created one goal and scored another at QPR and in six starts for the Club has directly contributed to six goals.
Demarai Gray, meanwhile, is matching Townsend stride for stride in the scoring charts.
He has netted three in five starts and captured the hearts of Evertonians with the skill and speed of thought and foot that have terrorised multiple defences this term.
Alex Iwobi, who played centrally against QPR, is another in contention for a wing role.
“I have never seen a [wide] player of Andros’ type, he is so direct and you see that in his goals and assists,” said Gordon.
“He is experienced and a great person and I’ve learned a lot from him already.
“Dimi is similar to me, he has the same characteristics and I have seen him improve his end product.
“All four wingers have been at it in training since pre-season. It is healthy competition and I am ready.”
There was a lot to like about Gordon’s fearless performance in west London. He supplied more key passes – four – than any other player on the field and had two attempts at goal.
The early shot he sent on target required a sharp reflex save from QPR goalkeeper Seny Dieng.
What’s more, Everton split their wide attacks evenly between the two flanks – 39.2 per cent down Gordon’s left channel and 39.5 per cent on the opposite side – which, with the excellent Townsend patrolling the right, says a lot for the young player’s involvement.
Gordon is acutely aware, however, of where he needs to contribute more.
“I did all right [overall] but there were a few bits I could improve on, a few touches around the box,” added Gordon, who was nerveless when converting Everton’s fifth penalty in the deciding shootout despite the recent memory of clattering a kick against the bar in the pre-season Florida Cup .
“The chance in the first half, I needed to score.
“I thought I did well – but results matter and goals and assists matter, so they are what I am looking for.
“I was confident with the penalty, I missed one in Florida and was keen to make up for that. I did, so I proved something to myself.
“We had enough to win and need to be winning games like this.
“But it is gone and our heads are on Norwich [Premier League game on Saturday]."