Everton manager Marco Silva has urged his squad to continue making Goodison Park as difficult a venue for their opponents as possible this season.
The Blues take on Watford FC on Saturday in their first home game of the 2019-20, having won their last four matches at Goodison last season without conceding a goal.
Speaking at his pre-match press conference on Friday ahead of Saturday’s game, he said:
“It’s really important for us to make Goodison our fortress. We finished last season playing really well with a fantastic connection with our fans.
“They play a key part during the game and was a big part of our season. In our best moments they were there and in other moments also. We did well together.”
Last weekend, Everton got their new campaign underway with a 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace, and though it was not the ideal result for Silva, he was pleased to see the solidity in his side that was so apparent at the end of the last term continue.
The Toffees have kept ten clean sheets in their last 13 Premier League matches, having resolved the defensive issues that plagued their campaign earlier last season.
When asked what the secret is behind their dramatic change in fortunes at the back, Silva simply answered:
“Work and work and work. You achieve nothing if you don’t do that. It’s not just that, of course; we have to put quality in our work. The players have to understand the philosophy as well and we have to make them believe that it is the way to get stronger as a team.
“Even when we’ve made some changes in our back line, we’ve done really well. The numbers are really, really good for us; not just at Goodison. Nine clean sheets in our last 12 Premier League games means we, as a team, are working really hard; not just our back line and our goalkeeper.
“If you keep a clean sheet, you are closer to winning a football match; now we have to do the opposite in the other box, to be more clinical, to convert the chances we keep creating, but I like our team to be solid like we are.”
Silva is also yet to give four of his seven summer arrivals their competitive debuts in royal blue, with André Gomes [on a permanent basis], Moise Kean and Jean-Philippe Gbamin the only new signings to make their Blues bows at Selhurst Park.
While the manager admitted it is not ideal having to bed in several players at once during the season, he accepted it his job to do so, and has full confidence in them to perform whenever he gives them their opportunity on the pitch:
“It’s my job. If you asked me would I have preferred to have all of them in for pre-season, that would be fantastic, but it is what it is. Now it is my job to settle them all in the right way.
“Some of them are already ready if I need them, others need time; Alex [Iwobi] only arrived last week, and others did not play enough minutes in pre-season also. but they are ready to play if I decide to give time to them.
“In the meantime, you have to put them in the side like we did with Jean-Philippe [Gbamin], but I have to decide the best XI for each game.”
As for Saturday’s game, Silva said he expects a tough game against Watford, a club he left in acrimony in January 2018 having been linked with the vacant managerial post at Everton earlier in the season.
He is yet to beat the Hornets since becoming manager at Goodison, and is predicting another difficult encounter with a side who impressed him last season:
“I don’t think their style of play will change much. it’s very clear what they are trying to do. Of course, they signed players, but for me, they already had a good, strong squad last season. It will be the same tomorrow.
“It will be a competitive match for sure, and we respect our opponents, but we are playing at home and believe in our ourselves. We have to play at our best because just one thing is on our mind: to get three points.”