Idrissa Gana Gueye says manager Marco Silva is pushing Everton to get better every week – and credits his own dynamic form to the influence of his new boss.
Everton drew at unbeaten Chelsea on Sunday to enter the current international break one point outside the Premier League’s top six – after collecting 13 points from their past six matches.
Explosive midfielder Gana has been central to his side’s fruitful run of form, the Senegalese striking up a proficient engine-room alliance with Andre Gomes.
Gana has made 57 tackles this season – 12 more than any of his top-flight counterparts. But in keeping with Silva's fast-developing team, Gana is broadening his repertoire beyond the traditional confines of his deeper-lying role.
The 61-cap international is attempting 54 passes per game – up three on last term – and completing nearly 86 per cent of them, an improvement on last season's 84.7 per cent.
Gana’s greater accuracy is all the more impressive when viewed in the context of his increased ambition on the ball. In 2017-18 he struck 2.15 accurate long passes per match. The comparative figure this time round is 3.19.
Asked if Silva was directly responsible for his more expansive contribution, Gana told evertontv: “Yes, of course, the training is changing, we train hard and you can see it in the way we play: we try to play football.
“We try to keep the ball. Even playing against Chelsea, in the first half we did that well.
“It was harder in the second half but it was a good point, we know it is hard to play there.
“We went there to challenge Chelsea and play our football.
“We are getting better every week, so we have to keep going and continue trying to produce the same level of performance [as at Chelsea] – if we do that then we will win a lot of games.”
COYB... Tough but good point https://t.co/4njrtnNNQO
— Idrissa Gana Gueye (@IGanaGueye) November 11, 2018
Everton have won four and drawn one of their past six Premier League matches, the only defeat coming in a tight contest at Manchester United.
Portuguese technician Gomes was introduced to the side in the embryonic phase of that series of games – the former Valencia player making his Everton debut in a 2-0 success over Crystal Palace.
Gana’s role has altered accordingly, the 29-year-old charged by Silva with providing defensive ballast when Gomes raids forward – but not at the cost of showing attacking ambition of his own.
Gana thudded a post with a long-range shot in the recent home victory over Brighton & Hove Albion, one of four attempts he has aimed at goal this season.
Only Gylfi Sigurdsson among Everton’s players is running further per game than Gana’s 10.97km. The African has won a mighty 90 duels – just two Premier League midfielders can boast a higher total - and his 28 interceptions is the sixth-highest number completed by top-flight performers.
“Everybody is focused on our ambitions, our manager gives us a lot of things to do in training which makes it easier when we play at the weekend,” said Gana, who jetted off for Senegal's forthcoming Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Equatorial Guinea following the weekend encounter with Chelsea.
“We try to work hard on the training ground, we know it is important to work hard if we want to fight with the top-five teams and we have to repeat these kinds of performances.
“I am more defensive than Andre, he has to get higher and attack and if he goes I have to stay behind him and keep our defensive organisation.
“But if I have the opportunity, I have to go and he will stay.
“We believe in ourselves as a team with the new manager and if we continue like that [the Chelsea performance] it will be good for the next game.”