Rafa Benitez believes the growing “communion” between his team and Evertonians can help drive the Blues to success this season.
Everton have accumulated 14 points from their opening seven Premier League matches, with Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Manchester United ensuring the Toffees’ positive momentum continued into the international break.
Benitez’s side have consistently played with intensity, determination and conviction so far this term – and have seen their dynamic performances recognised with passionate vocal backing from Everton fans at Goodison Park and on the road.
The Blues manager explained how shaping a team that represents the supporters’ values was one of his key priorities.
“I think the fans appreciate this team has the mentality every Evertonian expects,” Benitez told evertontv.
“The Scousers, what they want is to see the players fighting on the pitch. The Evertonians were maybe missing that a little bit, and they were frustrated. Now they are happy because the team is doing that – giving everything every day and in every game.
“The fans appreciate that, the players appreciate the support of the fans – and then you have this communion. That gives the players the extra mile if they have to run the extra mile.
“Against United, I was really pleased to see the team coming to Old Trafford, not scared, and trying to win the game. I was happy with the way every single player was working for the team, the chances we had and the way we were defending, everything.”
Everton’s start to the Premier League campaign has been all the more impressive given Benitez has been without several experienced First Team players due to injury.
Seamus Coleman, Andre Gomes, Fabian Delph, Alex Iwobi, Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin were all sidelined for Saturday’s draw at Old Trafford – and Benitez paid tribute to the individuals who have stepped up in their absence.
While he did not go into specifics regarding when the injured players will be ready to return, he expects to have a stronger squad to choose from when Everton resume their Premier League campaign at Goodison against West Ham United on Sunday 17 October.
“In terms of the reaction of the team and how we are coping with that [the injuries], I am really pleased, because everybody is giving everything,” he said.
“You can see players coming from the bench and they are ready to try to help the team.
“Hopefully, we can rest some players [during the international break]. We can recover some players who are a little bit tired – and then the others, if we have one or two coming back, we will be grateful, because we need legs.
“I am really pleased with the players we have at the moment, but if you have two or three players that will come back and help the others, then hopefully it will be very useful for the team.”
The unavailability of key attacking duo Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin did not prevent Everton creating a host of opportunities against United.
The Blues regularly committed numbers forward and fired 12 shots during the game, just one fewer than the home team.
United had more possession than Everton but Benitez emphasised it is how you use the ball – rather than how much of it you have – that is of paramount importance.
He explained: “You can have a lot of possession in the middle of the pitch – that means nothing.
“You have to create chances and you have to be sure your team is competitive. We have some characteristics… we have players who give everything on the pitch.
“They compete, they can create chances and win games. Against United, it was a draw, but we were very close to winning the game.
“The way we played in the first half and the reaction in the second half means this team has the belief and a very good team spirit.”
On his team’s breathtaking counter-attacking goal at Old Trafford, Benitez added: “We tried to practise this little bit.
“We try to manage, especially when you play against a top side, to understand the way you have to play the counter-attack.
“It’s important to have the right decisions in the final third. That is something we were missing in some games.
“We have to continue to encourage the players to go to the final third and try to score goals.”