Benitez: Be Aggressive And Show Character

Rafa Benitez says his Everton squad must stick together and learn from their previous mistakes ahead of Monday night's trip to Wolves (8pm GMT).

After leading Watford 2-1 last weekend, the Blues endured a torrid final 12 minutes, conceding four late goals to miss out on the opportunity to climb into the Premier League's top four.

It was a period that manager Benitez says has been a focal point in training at USM Finch Farm ahead of Monday's meeting with an in-form Wolves team, who have taken 10 points from the past available 12. 

"The first thing was to analyse why, after going 2-1 up, we could concede in the way we did," said the Spaniard at his pre-match press conference.

"I said before I was frustrated because we were not expecting that. You can make a mistake and lose a game. Fine. If you have your chances, you couldn't take your chances... They have a chance, they take their chance. 

"But in this case, we were winning. After scoring the second goal, with Richarlison coming back, with the fans behind the team – everything was positive. 

"Why it happened is very clear – we didn't win the tackles, we were in bad positions, we didn't attack the ball when we had to defend. Too many things when you put them together. We were in a bad position when we conceded the second goal and then, after that, we were in bad positions – two or three players who were in situations that we cannot be exposed to.

"We have looked at the mistakes and how to change that, how to improve.

"The main thing is to be sure that we stick together as a team.

"The best way to respond will be winning the next game – it's as simple as that."

The manager also discussed his preference of zonal marking - and called on his players to show more aggression when defending set pieces.

"When I came [to England] in 2004, we were doing zonal marking and people were criticising the system, then the year after and two years after, we were the best team at defending set pieces with the zonal marking," he added. 

"It's just how you do it. If a player is coming running against you then you have to react.

"The main thing for us is that we attack the ball and we show some character when you have to challenge. We were not doing that. 

"It's not just the zonal marking because if it's man to man, they block your defender and there could be a man free and that can mean more chances and more space. 

"I think it's a question of how to defend, how to show character and the aggression that you have to show in these situations to defend a corner or free-kick."

Benitez, who will take charge of his 350th game as a Premier League manager at Molineux, also discussed the form of Anthony Gordon.

The 20-year-old forward impressed in last weekend's game at Goodison before being withdrawn on the hour, in place of eventual goalscorer Richarlison.

And, while he praised Gordon's contribution, Benitez has called for patience as he looks to maximise the clear potential of the Academy graduate.

"Don't forget that Anthony was on loan last year and I decided to keep him here because I could see the potential," he added. "I was the first one who explained to the boy [why he was substituted]. 

"I'm really pleased with his attitude and commitment in every training session and in the games. 

"It's not about individuals, it's about the team. 

"Anthony is working hard and getting better. If you ask him, he will say that he is fine and that he can play 90 minutes, for sure this is what he has to say because he's a Premier League player. 

"I'm really pleased with him and hopefully he can play 90 minutes in a lot of games between now and the end of the season, but my job is to be sure that he will play well in a lot of games, not just put him on the pitch and see what happens. 

"I want to be sure that he is improving, to be sure he is progressing. He will be a much better player at the end of the season."


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