Rafa Benitez says new signings Vitalii Mykolenko and Nathan Patterson are ideally suited for the aggressive, high-intensity style he wants to implement at Everton – as he underlined his belief the Blues can rediscover their early-season form in the second half of the campaign.
Benitez added the return of “crucial player” Dominic Calvert-Lewin will significantly boost his team, with the Blues boss convinced the England striker can reignite his potent partnership with Richarlison upon the Brazilian’s injury comeback.
The pair hit more than 50 per cent of Everton’s goals last season but have started just three games together this term, when the Toffees won two and drew one.
Everton have acted quickly in the January transfer window to bring dynamic full-back duo Mykolenko, 22, and Patterson, 20, to Goodison Park.
Benitez says the pair will add energy, hunger and quality to the squad – and believes they can be important components for years to come as he strives to shape a successful Everton side.
“If you analyse my teams, they are aggressive, they go on the front foot and press, and try to regain the ball high up the pitch, create chances and score goals,” Benitez told evertontv.
“And at the same time, keep the balance. Keeping the balance between defence and attack is key for winning something. Not just winning games, winning trophies.
“That is the style I want to install here. Bringing in these two young players with energy, they can go forward and attack, is key for the future of the Club.
“I hope they can give us fresh legs and faces to improve the competition [in the squad]. And thinking about the future…I like to see Everton growing and improving – and improving the winning mentality. Not just being in a comfortable position where people are more relaxed.
“The big issue is to create a winning mentality that will allow you to compete in the future. That is young players coming in, hungry players who want to be here and fight and give everything on the pitch.
“Nathan and Vitalii have the characteristics we are looking for – players who like to go forward and provide crosses to the players up front.
“I don‘t want to put them under pressure because they are young and need to know the Premier League. But these players are the future of the Club, for sure.”
Benitez revealed Everton could do further business in January.
“This is a difficult window but we saw we can do things and, hopefully, can continue looking for the best possible options for us,” he said.
“The idea is to bring new faces and increase the competition between players.”
Everton are 15th in the Premier League and Benitez admits he is “not happy with the situation in the table”.
The Spaniard reiterated his confidence Everton’s results will soon improve, however, with key individuals returning to fitness and the additions of Mykolenko and Patterson further bolstering his squad.
The pair’s arrivals mean Benitez has signed seven players for Everton during his tenure so far, with Andros Townsend, Demarai Gray, Salomon Rondon, Asmir Begovic and Andy Lonergan joining in the summer window.
"We have to take responsibility and accept sometimes we are making mistakes and have to improve things," Benitez said. "Not just the players, me, too.
“I don’t want to make excuses, but the reality is we have had some injuries, players who were crucial last year for us have been out.
“But I am quite positive with how I can see the future.
“We have to find solutions to the short-term problems and I am sure it will be much better in the future, because we [myself and and my coaching staff] know how to improve teams and install a winning mentality.”
Benitez added: “We are trying to do [in the transfer market] what we knew we needed to do. Firstly, bring wingers to provide crosses for Dominic. When you have a striker of his talent and quality, everybody was expecting wingers, so we brought those to provide ammunition for him score goals.
“Then, [we have signed] full-backs who can overlap and make passes and crosses. It is a question of time.
“Little by little, we have to impose these things that will make the team and Club stronger and better.”
Calvert-Lewin – Everton’s 2020/21 Player and Players’ Player of the Season – started his first match after more than four months out with a quadriceps injury in Sunday’s clash with Brighton.
Benitez explained how the 24-year-old not only elevates Everton’s attacking prowess but also provides an important influence off the field.
“I think Dom is a crucial player for us,” Benitez said. “Obviously, we are talking about the top scorer of the last year and a player that is growing in terms of experience and confidence.
“When you talk with him, you can see he wants to take responsibility.
“I think his contribution was fine [against Brighton]. I watched clips of the game, and he had a couple of situations that he could score goals.
“He was very close. It [his performance] is what you are expecting from him – when you make crosses, he will be there at the end of them or holding the ball, linking with the teammates. If he stays fit, he could make a big difference for us.
“And it’s not just what he can do on the pitch, when you talk with him, you can see he is more mature and he wants to do well. That is the type of player we are looking for.”
Calvert-Lewin and fellow attacker Richarlison hit a combined total of 34 of Everton's 67 goals in all competitions last term.
They were quickly back on the scoring trail this season, with both netting in the Blues’ 3-1 win over Southampton on the opening day of the Premier League campaign.
The pair also started in the 2-2 draw with Leeds United and 2-0 win at Brighton but have been unable to take to the field together since that late August game on the south coast.
Richarlison is currently sidelined with a calf injury and Benitez admitted he is looking forward to being able to field both of Everton's main goal threats again.
“Any team that loses their two top scorers will be suffering,” he said.
“We had that plus other issues in the first part of the league.
“To have the top scorers on the pitch and everybody pushing, with competition between players, it is the best way to have this winning mentality.
“This approach will allow you to compete for something in the future – not just to improve one or two positions in the league.
“We don’t want be one or two places better, we want to be a lot of positions better and then compete for something.”