After weeks and weeks of enduring an injury list the length of his arm, Rafa Benitez is finally getting some respite with a number of key Everton players returning to training this week at Finch Farm. The club released pictures and video of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison and Yerry Mina all training, with Jarrad Branthwaite and Fabian Delph also featuring.
Speaking during his pre-match press conference ahead of the Toffees’ trip to Norwich City in the Premier League tomorrow, Benitez said -
“All of them were training yesterday, so at the moment the only one not available through injury is just Tom Davies. He had his operation.
“All the others were training and now we have to treat them carefully. At the moment they are fine, then it is up to us to see who can be available for his game or the next games.
“We are quite confident we have people coming back…but they are still not fully fit. It is important to understand match fitness comes with games. We cannot forget we also have three games in hand. We have to get some wins and will be in much better position and can play our game.”
There also appears to be one possible COVID case in the squad, and the unnamed player might miss this trip.
When asked how long he expected Davies to be out, Benitez added -
“It is difficult to say. With these type of things, you are expecting more than one month… it has to be decided by the surgeon and after the physio.
“But I am sure he will be out for one or two months.”
Benitez insists that Everton’s recent woes have nothing to do with his formation but how the players approach the games. The Toffees have conceded very early against both Brighton and Hull City; they were able to come back against the Championship strugglers but were pretty much played off the park at home against Graham Potter’s side.
“I think I was clear, it’s difficult to explain things when you lose, but it was very easy to analyze we made individual mistakes that in the end cost us the game.
“We’ve had this issue for a while, playing with four-at-the-back, three-at-the-back, five-at-the-back, it’s not just a question of systems, it’s more about tactics.
“We have to be more aggressive, we have to have more intensity at the beginning of the games to be sure that we are strong enough and we don’t give any hope to the other team and put ourselves in a difficult position.
“We have been talking about that, we know we have to improve that. Hopefully we will see that we have learned from our mistakes in the next games.”
How difficult has been to adapt to different systems especially when players are well-rooted in their ways.
“If I change your environment, what do you need to do to do well? To practice, no?
“We practice, we train, we coach the players with different systems and they have the experience to play in different systems. It’s not about systems, it’s about what you can do, are capable to do, and confidence and a lot of things together.
“As a coach I used to play different systems with different teams during a season. It’s just to coach them and to be sure they understand the principles and then you carry on doing that.
“Like I said before, to concede a goal the other day is nothing to do with the system, whether it’s the first goal against Hull or the first or second against Brighton. It’s a question of to pay more attention, to be more focused and to concentrate, and it will be easier.”
Is the general malaise around the club only a footballing issue, or are there more off-the-pitch issues clouding matters?
“I think the fans know what they were expecting last year, and we are trying to fix these things and make the squad more competitive in every department.
“This year it was not easy. It was not easy in the transfer window with the money available, and it has not been easy when we have had to cope with the injuries to the players. We are making the right things for the future and hopefully at the end everybody will appreciate that.”