We’re happy to be back here at Goodison Park with the first international break of the season complete and the transfer window closed. We now have a three-week window, which includes five games before the next domestic break, where we can work with clarity and focus on converting strong performances into points on the board.
I believe we have deserved more from our opening fixtures. Three out of the four league performances have been good with many positives to take, but as I’ve said on many occasions, I concern myself with only the reality - and the reality of our situation is that we either haven’t managed to add finishing touches to score enough goals to secure those points or we have let a couple of soft defensive errors creep in.
Games at this level are often decided on the small details. It’s our responsibility to address those and that’s what we’ve been working on at both ends of the pitch during this two-week break from Premier League action with the players we’ve had available as a number have been away.
The Club - and many of these players - have gone through a very testing period in the past two seasons. But I’ve spoken to the squad about the growth and mental resilience that comes from getting through those times.
Of course, we’re working to ensure this club will compete on a higher level once again but I’ve told the players to lock in the experiences of playing through adversity, as individuals and as a team, because those tough moments add layers to your professional understanding of what it is to play in the Premier League.
I think there are signs of us starting to use those experiences to our benefit in terms of being resilient as we need to be. I want us to fight, always, and I mean that in different ways - in the traditional sense of putting sweat on the shirt, running hard and battling, but also in the modern sense of ‘fighting’ by playing with purpose and imposing ourselves in games with the correct body language and the quality needed to play and be effective as a team.
We also have key players returning to the squad following injuries and we hope that, along with the positive signs we have shown in the majority of our matches this season, can really give us a platform to kick on.
Reflecting on the summer transfer window, it’s no secret it was a challenging one for us, but I am pleased with the five signings we were able to get through the door. The Club put a situation to me that we have to cut our cloth accordingly while still being proactive, which I think we showed as much as we could. I must also give credit to Kevin Thelwell for his work in constructing deals that were right for the Club and the team.
On the outgoings side, we sold Alex Iwobi, who we were reluctant to lose but, at the end of the day, we received a very substantial fee for a player with one year left on his contract and that had to be considered.
Demarai Gray also left us last week and it was unfortunate for it to end the way it did because I always try to keep our business in house. As I said at the time, we look after our players in every way possible - physically, tactically, technically and their mental wellbeing - but the Club always comes first when it comes to decisions.
I’m very privileged to be Everton manager and I’m acutely aware that, for as long as that is the case, I am a custodian of this football club. To reiterate, the badge, the people, and the Club will always be above any one person – including the players, the staff and myself.
Today we welcome Mikel Arteta, his players, staff and everyone connected with Arsenal.
After a season of progress last year in which they went close to winning the league title, they have built on that strong foundation with investment over the summer and the additions of several high-quality players to their squad.
Mikel and Arsenal Football Club have invested heavily and engrained a style and identity on their group over the three-and-a-half years he has had at the club as manager and we know we must be at our best in order to achieve a positive result today.
We have full belief in ourselves that we can do that, as we managed here last season in my first game in charge of the Club. I know, like you did so crucially on that day, you’ll be with us every step of the way again. Your incredible support is never taken for granted.
Enjoy the game.