Rafael Benitez has praised Fabian Delph’s mentality and attitude as the midfielder looks set to retain his place in the side for Sunday’s trip to former club Manchester City.
Delph has spent more time on the treatment table than on the pitch during his time in royal blue, with his fleeting performances doing little to garner much enthusiasm from the fans.
The 32-year-old went on the earn the man of the match award in arguably his best performance since joining the club, a timely boost given the amount of injuries elsewhere that have made an already thin squad look threadbare.
Cynics may suggest Delph is stepping up his performances given his contract is up at the end of the season. But even if that is one of his overriding motivations Everton should still take advantage as someone of his experience, when fit, is an asset in an area of the pitch where they are hardly blessed with options.
When asked about Delph, Benitez told reporters:
“I think he has the right mentality, the right attitude. He wants to play every game.
“I have to stop him in the training sessions because he’s pushing very hard. That is the right attitude that you are expecting from any player.
“He came back and from day one in the training sessions he showed his commitment, his intensity, and also he’s quite vocal in trying to tell his teammates when to press and what you have to do here.
“These kind of players with experience and quality, if you can keep them fit then they can help the team if they have the right mentality.
“He is really desperate to play. He’s someone that can give us something with his experience and quality, his desire to play can be an example for anyone.
“If he can stay fit he is a good addition for us.”
Everton make the daunting trip to Etihad Stadium without a win in five matches stretching back to late September.
Three of those five matches have been defeats, and Benitez says he wants the team to show the type of mentality that saw them fight back against Southampton and Burnley earlier this season.
However, he also warned that he is taking a long-term view to the team’s development and asked the fans to be patient.
“Today I was talking with the players, the reaction against Southampton and Burnley was fantastic. The fans are clever and can see that. It’s something we have to improve, but Rome was not built in one day. Hopefully we can be a bit stronger mentally.
“We know the Premier League is tough. My idea is very clear, one game at a time. When you are not winning it seems everything is wrong, but it’s not wrong. We have to be competitive, if we are like that you never know what can happen.
“I’m not happy if we’re not winning, but I have a lot of confidence in the team and staff. We have plenty of time to do well, and I’m convinced we will do well.”
With Dominic Calvert-Lewin still sidelined with a thigh problem and Salomon Rondon struggling for form and fitness Richarlison is likely to lead the line against the champions.
There is still some debate as to the Brazilian’s best position, though Benitez says the service he receives is more important.
“As a striker and a winger, he can be dangerous but we must provide him with deliveries and good balls.”