Leon Osman says the “intelligent footballers” Everton signed in the summer are helping create an exciting team which “gets me out of my seat”.
Manager Marco Silva supplemented his attack with Brazilian duo Richarlison and Bernard, as well bringing in midfielder Andre Gomes, ahead of the current campaign.
And former Everton player Osman – joint-10th in the list of all-time appearance makers at the Club after playing 433 times in 13 years – believes the presence of that classy trio is enabling the “terrific” Gylfi Sigurdsson to flourish in his favourite number 10 position.
Sigurdsson has directly contributed to seven goals this season and is one of only five players in the Premier League to have created more than 30 chances . No Everton player is running further per game than Sigurdsson’s 11.76km – that in a team which has covered more distance in 12 matches this term than all but two top-flight rivals.
“You get excited when you are watching us at the moment,” Osman told evertonfc.com. "We are creating opportunities to score and I am getting out of my seat when I am watching us. I am enjoying it.
“Gylfi is a terrific player. I am delighted he is playing so well and is full of confidence.
“When you are the type of player he is, you need players around you to bring out the best in you.
“You want footballers to play with.
“Richarlison and Theo Walcott give him options to play balls over the top for pacy players.
“And he has Bernard and Andre Gomes, especially, who he can play football with, give it and get the ball back and find new spaces.
“I think Gomes is a really good player. He is getting the ball to Sigurdsson four or five passes earlier than he was receiving it previously.
“Gomes’s first thought is to try to pass the ball forwards, which means he is getting it to Sigurdsson before the opposition get back and fill gaps.
“If you supply the ball early to a player like Gylfi Sigurdsson and he has runners off him, like Richarlison and Walcott, then you will see the best of him.”
Richarlison has scored six goals following his transfer from Watford and been one of the revelations of this embryonic campaign, the 21-year-old leading the way as Everton collected 19 points from their opening 12 matches, an improvement of seven points on their return at the same stage 12 months ago.
He won his fifth and sixth Brazil caps during the current international break. And Osman, now working as a pundit for various media outlets including the BBC, was at Milton Keynes on Tuesday to see Richarlison power in a fabulous header and settle Brazil’s friendly contest with Cameroon.
Richarlison replaced the stricken Neymar early in the match and was deployed in a wide position. After starting the season on the left for Everton, he has been switched by Silva to a central role for the past five games.
“Richarlison did very well for Brazil,” said Osman, who was capped twice by England. “He had an impact on the game and gives them something they don’t have without him.
“He is a direct runner and makes great runs in behind. He is powerful and strong and aggressive.
"And he gives them a threat physically – and in the air from set pieces, as you saw with his goal [which Richarlison converted from a corner].
“He has done a great job as a striker for Everton. He is a modern-day left winger in a 4-3-3 system. He can play as a wideman when needed but also wants to be in the box.
“He does both of those jobs. Some widemen stay wide – and you have strikers who only want to be in the middle. He is a modern-day player who can do both.
“He is at his best in that role but circumstances dictate he is doing a very good job for us up front right now."
Silva also recruited defensive trio Lucas Digne, Kurt Zouma and Yerry Mina following his appointment during the close-season.
And the former Sporting Lisbon and Olympiakos boss is striking a pleasing balance between defence and attack, with Everton having conceded nine goals fewer than at the same stage last season.
They blunted formerly free-flowing Chelsea to secure a point at Stamford Bridge last time out and have let in only four goals in the past six matches.
“That resilience and belief has been steadily growing,” said Osman.
“There are still improvements to make and the manager will be working on one or two things.
“But they are starting to believe they can keep clean sheets and get results anywhere.
“Everton went to Arsenal and Manchester United and, at times, played as well as they have this season. They created opportunities at both of those places and just needed that last bit of belief to get something.
“They have been slowly building that belief. And going to Chelsea, the players seemed to stick their chests out and say, ‘We are coming away from here with something’.
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“The new players are intelligent footballers who will find it easier [to settle in] because of their understanding of the game. They will quickly pick up what the manager wants and know the systems to play.
“The manager has given them a lot of confidence and they have fitted in very well.
“It has been great to see the development in the past two months, or so. Everton’s running without the ball has been key for me.
“We demand our players make forward runs, whether they get the ball or not.
“It changes the outlook of the game, enables players to rotate positions and creates opportunities for others.”