Alex Iwobi says positive talks with boss Frank Lampard and an enduring confidence following his fine form at the end of last season paved the way for his accomplished display against Chelsea on Saturday.
Iwobi earned glowing praise from Lampard for his performance alongside Abdoulaye Doucoure in Everton’s midfield engine room, with the Blues boss declaring the Nigerian “did superb in the game…and dealt with Chelsea’s threats brilliantly”.
The 26-year-old was one of Everton’s standout players in the 2021/22 season run-in and says he is determined to elevate his game further in this campaign.
Iwobi revealed how specific instructions from Lampard ahead of the Chelsea match helped him shine against high-quality opposition.
He told evertontv: “I had a meeting with the manager before the game who told me – especially when we are going on the attack – that I should look around and be aware of my surroundings.
“It helped me going into the game and I felt like I did okay.
“I felt quite comfortable in midfield. The defence was always talking to me and helping me, so I was always in the right positions at the right times.
“The gaffer is always talking to me, motivating me and telling me to go out and express myself, kick on from last season, and I feel like I’ve done that so far. But it’s a long season, it’s a marathon, and there’s a long way to go.”
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LAMPARD: JUST ONE INGREDIENT WAS MISSING FROM SOLID DISPLAY
Iwobi’s influence on the game is highlighted by the fact he completed more passes than any other Everton player (38).
He was ambitious in possession, too, regularly feeding penetrative passes into the Toffees’ attackers.
Iwobi explained how the belief he feels from Evertonians is giving him the freedom to express himself.
“The fans are always giving me that confidence that even if a pass doesn’t come off, they’ll clap and applaud the effort,” he said.
“It’s something that’s helping me go into games that, even if I do miss, I’ll have the confidence to try something again.
“It worked out against Chelsea, I was able to make some forward passes and hopefully it leads to some assists in the next game.”
The Chelsea game was marred by an injury to Ben Godfrey after just 10 minutes, with Lampard confirming the defender sustained a suspected “small fracture” of his fibula.
Iwobi said: “The way Ben was suffering on the pitch, it didn’t look right.
"We’ll keep in touch with him, he’s a strong guy. As soon as I got in after the game, I messaged him straight away.
“We hope for the best for him because he’s one of the lads. He’s a big character. He’ll be back in no time. We trust him.”
Godfrey’s fellow centre-back James Tarkowski produced a towering performance against Chelsea, with his authority, composure and leadership all on show on his competitive Everton debut.
Iwobi revealed the sense of assurance the England international gives to the team.
Iwobi said: “He’s a giant at the back, he’s a monster.
“You feel very safe and secure with him, and nothing goes past him. For me playing in front of him, he’s always talking to me, always helping me to be in the right positions.
“He’s good for me, good for the team, has a lot of experience. It was a solid performance from him.”
Everton stood toe-to-toe with Chelsea throughout the game, with only Jorginho’s penalty in first-half stoppage time settling a closely-fought battle.
Iwobi insists belief will remain high in the camp ahead of Saturday’s trip to Aston Villa.
“I don’t think like we deserved this result,” Iwobi said.
“We defended really well, we were unfortunate with the penalty but, other than that, we defended as a team and created a couple of chances. On another day, those chances go in.
“It shows we can compete with one of the best teams in the Premier League. If we can compete against them, we can compete against anyone.”