Idrissa Gana Gueye says Everton’s players are relishing the opportunity to execute Marco Silva’s possession-based brand of football.
Senegalese Gana has been a fixture in manager Silva’s plans this season and has latterly developed a formidable midfield partnership with Andre Gomes.
The duo has not been separated since coming together in late October for Everton's Goodison Park victory over Crystal Palace, a result which formed part of a productive run that has yielded 16 points from seven games ahead of Sunday’s meeting with Liverpool.
And Gana insists the prospect of extending their positive sequence of results is all the motivation Everton need going into this weekend's 232nd Merseyside derby.
“The manager has his way, which is to keep the ball and play football,” said Gana.
“We are in a good, confident way and doing well. We are working hard on the training ground and that is showing on the pitch.
“The manager has changed a lot of things, which is why we are happy. It is a pleasure to be on the pitch. He tells us to enjoy every game… to enjoy our football and do what we have to on the pitch. We try to do that and it’s working.
“We have had a normal week in training, every game is big for us.
“You can see we are getting better every week. We want to keep our level against Liverpool and play like we do in any game.
“The only thing which motivates us is to take the three points and continue our good form.”
Everton go to Anfield on the back of winning four straight home games and in healthy condition on their travels, too.
Their most recent away fixture at Chelsea ended scoreless, while only Arsenal and Manchester United have sent Everton home with nothing to show for their efforts on the road this season.
Gana’s remit has been subtly adjusted since Portugal international Gomes came into the side, albeit the combative former Lille player has lost none of his customary bite.
He has made 59 tackles this season – 10 more than any other Premier League player – completed 30 interceptions and needs to win four more duels to bring up his century.
“It’s not about me, it’s about the team,” said Gana. “I just try to help the team, to do my job on the pitch... I like playing football, tackling, giving the ball.
“For me, if I go into a tackle and don’t win the ball, then it is a bad tackle. Every time I go into a challenge, I am trying to win the ball back for one of my teammates and to help my team. Sometimes I don’t realise how many tackles I have made in a game.
“I have to play a little bit further back this season because Andre is more of a forward player than me. Sometimes I have to control the game and allow him to decide when to go forward and when to stay. But it is a good balance playing with Andre.
“He is a very good player. We try to help each other and that is one of the reasons why it is working so well.
“But these things start on the training ground. Players who are currently on the bench help us a lot because they are not giving up and train hard every week. They make it tough for us to be picked and they are why we are good at the weekend.”
Gana is in his third campaign with Everton after joining in 2016 from Aston Villa, where he had one season after transferring to the Premier League team from Lille in France.
Capped 62 times by his country, Gana signed a new contract earlier this year to tie him to Everton until June 2022.
The 29-year-old, though, is reluctant too look beyond his team’s next match – “we just try to win each game and see where we are at the end of the season” –directing his focus solely towards what will be his fifth all-Merseyside clash.
To that end, he is prepared to throw back his gaze momentarily – to Everton’s performance against Chelsea three weeks ago, when the Blues repelled everything Maurizio Sarri’s formerly free-scoring team threw at them and created enough chances to have claimed all three points.
“Chelsea is a big team and for a long time we hadn’t been able to get a good result there,” added Gana. “But we we went and tried to play football and cause them some problems. We played well and it gave us a lot of confidence after the game.
“Before every game I focus on what I have to do, thinking, ‘Don’t be disturbed by the atmosphere'.
"I know sometimes it’s hard to stay focussed if the atmosphere is very, very good. Sunday will be a tough game but we like this type of atmosphere.
“It gives you more power and more confidence on the pitch.
“My dream was the come to the Premier League and play. Aston Villa gave me that opportunity and even though it was a hard season I was happy. I am happy, too, that Everton gave me the chance to stay in this league. I have my young family here and I am enjoying it.”