Iwobi: Blues Benefitting From Fresh Start

Alex Iwobi believes Everton are benefitting from a fresh start, insisting the hard work will continue on improving match fitness and sharpness following their opening pre-season friendly.

The Blues were defeated 2-0 by Arsenal in front of nearly 40,000 supporters at the M&T Bank Stadium, the home of NFL side Baltimore Ravens.

Manager Frank Lampard played with two entirely different teams in both halves, with summer signing James Tarkowski making his first appearance for the Club, while a host of youngsters - Billy Crellin, Stanley Mills, Reece Welch, Lewis Warrington - were also handed a chance to impress.

First-half goals from Gabriel Jesus and Bukayo Saka, in the space of a disappointing three minutes, consigned the Toffees to defeat, but Iwobi insists the test will prove valuable in the long run.

“It was good,” he told evertontv. “Obviously, I played in the second half and I feel like we managed to put a bit more pressure on them - we had a couple of chances and opportunities, but, overall, I think everyone did well. 

“At the end of the day, it was our first game and it was their third so they were going to be a tad sharper than us. 

“We had a lot of work to do and we can take the positives from this game.

“There were opportunities for some of the young lads as well. Everyone is trying to impress but there's a lot more work to do.

“It was a very tough season - mentally and physically. This is a fresh start. We go again, a new start, a new season. 

“The manager can implement the ideas that he wants with us, rather than just trying to win games by any means. 

“It's pre-season and he's going to experiment and explore the players we have. We have time to work on that and we have a lot of trust in him, so we're feeling good and confident that we will do well this season.

“In my short time back - I've only been back for a week - but they've got a lot of ideas. 

“The main thing for them, before they focus too much on the ideas, is making sure that we're fit and ready to do what they expect us to do. So far, so good, but the work continues.”

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Everton manager encouraged by pre-season opener in Baltimore, USA.

Iwobi was one of Everton’s key performers in the second half of the 2021/22 season. Buoyed by the faith of manager Lampard, he established himself as a firm fans' favourite.

The Nigeria international operated in a familiar wide attacking role against the Gunners in the USA, but was also deployed in central midfield and wing-back last term.

And the 26-year-old says he is desperate to continue repaying the faith of Lampard, starting with peaking his fitness ahead of the competitive campaign.

“I’m really enjoying it with him,” continued Iwobi. “Now I need to maintain that fitness going into the new season and stay consistent with my performances. 

“I have that confidence - [Lampard] gives me that confidence every time I step on the pitch. He puts a lot of faith in me and I just have to keep on giving my best for him.

“I feel like I can express myself and be free when I'm playing. 

“I’m enjoying my time at the moment.

“My first week of pre-season has been good. I still maintained my fitness, even though I had a short break. I still feel very fit, ready to go whenever - but there's still time before the season starts and I'm sure I'll get sharper.

“At the back end of the season, I feel like people started to notice a bit that I've got an engine - it's always been in me. 

“I’ve been putting in a lot of effort into my running and trying to make sure that I'm at the top and pushing myself. It's going well.”

Discussing the welcome from the supporters inside the stadium, Iwobi added: “I guess I was living the best of both worlds as a former Arsenal player who is now at Everton! There were a couple of Nigeria flags as well. 

“It was a really welcoming feeling for me. 

“The turnout was amazing and the fact we have fans out here in America just shows how much football means to people around the world.”