Jarrad Branthwaite insists Everton’s growing mental resilience will be “crucial” for the rest of the campaign.
Sean Dyche’s defence has been bolstered by the introduction of Branthwaite, who, after impressing against Wolves, kept his place alongside James Tarkowski in central defence for the 2-2 draw at Sheffield United ahead of the international break.
Despite the Toffees dominating periods of the game, Paul Heckingbottom’s Blades went close late on to finding a winner, but Everton’s fortitude was evident - along with a superb double save by Jordan Pickford - and the visitors took a well-earned point back to Merseyside.
Speaking to evertontv after the game, Branthwaite discussed the mental toughness needed to continue to generate results.
“That’s crucial for us: showing the spirit and the willingness to win games, to dig in and to get a result,” the 21-year-old explained. “You saw at the end, Pickers’ save shows that no matter what, we’re going to be there until the end to get something from the game.
“We’ve just got to build on this after the international break. We’ve got a draw and we have to be fresh for when we come back.”
Branthwaite’s thoughts echoed that of manager Dyche, who has described how previous difficult matches and last season's fight for Premier League survival has helped build character in the squad.
“I've actually spoken to the players about that, about the growth that comes from those testing times,” said Dyche in last week's interview with evertontv. “They're incredibly tough days that we had at the end of last season - incredibly tough on the players, and the fans.
“But I said that has got to be locked into you as a player and as a team, because that kind of adversity and playing through it and winning those games is really, really tough, but it builds and adds layers to your professional understanding of what it is.
“I think there are signs that we're beginning to use that.”
Despite exemplifying a modern-day, ball-playing centre-back, there’s a steeliness to Branthwaite’s defending. At 6ft 5in and with pace, he utilises his physicality against opposition forwards.
So far this season, he is one of only five Premier League players to have not been beaten one-on-one, while his 69.2 per cent aerial-duel success rate ranks second at Everton, behind only Amadou Onana.
Exuding composure in possession, the England Under-21 international is already becoming heavily involved in Everton’s build-up play, averaging the second most passes completed of any Everton player.
Those passes are incisive, too. This season, Branthwaite ranks fourth at the Club for progressive passes per 90 minutes – behind only Onana, Idrissa Gana Gueye, and Ashley Young.
Aged just 21 and with only 11 Everton senior appearances to his name, Branthwaite recognises the belief he gains from playing in front of the experience of one of the league’s finest goalkeepers.
“It’s brilliant,” added Branthwaite, describing what it is like to defend Pickford’s goal. “It gives you confidence.
“You see the save at the end and that’s why he’s England’s No.1 as well. His ability with his feet, his saves; it’s a privilege to play in front of him.”