Ahead of Saturday’s away fixture against Brentford, Idrissa Gana Gueye sat down to discuss how the Blues can improve after a difficult start to the season, the role he has embraced within the dressing room, and the achievement of reaching a century of international appearances.
Q. It’s been a challenging start for Everton in the Premier League. What does the team need to do to improve their form?
IGG: It’s been a tough start to the season. It’s no secret that it’s been difficult so far. We’ve got all the ingredients provided to us by the coaches to help us to get out of this situation, but really, it’s only us as players who can do that.
I think the key is to focus on enjoying the game. We need to relax and play our football: enjoy our time on the ball, enjoy when we’re tackling, enjoy scoring goals.
Obviously, we want to try to win games. I think with some of the matches we’ve been in this season, we’ve deserved more than we’ve got. We’ve had chances in games that we’ve not managed to convert.
We need to get our heads down and work hard in training, but above all, play, and enjoy playing.
Q. The team was criticised for being too passive in possession against a strong Arsenal side. Do you need to show more on the ball this weekend against Brentford?
IGG: We had a plan and it worked last season against Arsenal, and it was similar this time. In football, anything can happen in games. Every match has its own truth. On this occasion, we couldn’t win possession back enough, but we know Arsenal are a good side.
I think what we can do is take lessons from that defeat, and use what we’ve learned for the next match. The next game is the most important. It always is, but every match this season is going to be vital. It’s about focusing in training and working really hard in preparation for Brentford on Saturday.
Q. As one of the squad’s most experienced players, how much have you embraced your role as a leader within the group?
IGG: I’m one of the oldest here, and with that comes experience. I’ve taken on this role naturally and without really thinking about it. It’s something that I do with Senegal as well. With all the teams I’ve played with, I think it’s just a case of passing on that experience.
I’m not one who talks all the time in the dressing room, but I pick my moments and say what needs to be said and when it needs to be said. I’m always there to help the group. Sometimes it might be focusing on the way we’re training or changing mentality going into games.
Obviously, you have to look for new approaches because things aren’t going too well for us at the moment. It’s a case of keeping focused, and if that experience of mine can help, then all for the better.
Q. Amadou (Onana) said you helped him to settle in when he arrived at the Club. What is your relationship like with him?
IGG: I’d say he’s the player I’m probably closest to. We’ve got lots of things in common. Obviously, we were both born in Senegal, and both played for Lille, so those two similarities drew us together. We share the same native language as well. I guess, if anything, he’s like a younger brother to me.
He spends a lot of time at my house, and he knows my family and I know his, so it’s nice we share these moments.
I can pass on the benefits of my experience to him and he’s an intelligent guy. He’s bright and he listens and wants to learn. He’s a player who will be around for a long time and he has a great career ahead of him, but it’s all about working hard to try to improve all the time.
It’s really good to get together with your teammates off the field, and especially at the moment when things are difficult on the field. It gives you a chance to exchange ideas and change your outlook slightly. It’s great to share those moments because your teammates are your friends.
Q. You mentioned Senegal earlier. You’re the first Senegalese player to win more than 100 international caps, and you’re the most capped player in your country’s history. How proud are you of that achievement?
IGG: It’s something I’m really proud of. It was always a dream to represent my country. Now, to have been in the team for so long, it’s an achievement I’m very proud of.
It’s okay talking about how great it is to have played 100 games, but you want to leave the team having won something. Fortunately, we won [the Africa Cup of Nations] last time, and I’ve managed to represent us at World Cups.
Hopefully, with the next Africa Cup of Nations just around the corner, we can achieve something in that as well. As I say, it’s great representing, but we want to win.