Rafael Benitez delighted with Everton’s ‘near-perfect’ start but insists his team can ‘still improve’ despite being level on points with leaders Manchester UnitedEverton leapfrogged Manchester City into fourth after beating BurnleyBoth the team’s home matches have seen them come from behind to winHowever, Rafael Benitez believes the Toffees can improve their attacking playHe also issued updates on James Rodriguez and Dominic Calvert-Lewin By Sean Taylor, Pa
Published: 10:22 EDT, 16 September 2021 | Updated: 10:55 EDT, 16 September 2021
Rafael Benitez is pleased with Everton’s ‘near-perfect’ start to the season but insists there remains plenty of room for improvement.
The unbeaten Toffees are fourth in the Premier League table after four matches – level on points with leaders Manchester United.
A draw at Leeds are the only points dropped by Benitez’s team and the Everton boss is hoping his side can maintain their momentum when they travel to Aston Villa on Saturday.
Rafael Benitez is delighted with the start Everton have made to the Premier League campaign
A rousing comeback against Burnley saw the Toffees move above Manchester City into fourth
‘I wouldn’t say it is perfect as we drew a game, near perfect maybe, but it is very pleasing as it is not easy when there is a change of manager to expect the team to do well,’ said Benitez, who took charge at Goodison Park in the summer.
‘I am really pleased with everything and I hope it continues in this way. It is not easy but we will try to do it.
‘There can be improvement. I don’t like to concede first – to be honest I don’t like to concede anyway. I also think we have had chances to score more goals and we can still improve the transition and attacking play.
‘But this is the beginning and I am pleased because we are moving forward in the right direction.’
Benitez believes his team are building a good rapport with the supporters – illustrated by Everton’s two home matches this season.
Against both Southampton and Burnley, the Toffees have battled back from behind to win – something they managed only once in the Premier League last season during the entire campaign.
The win also put Everton level on points with Premier League leaders Manchester United
Benitez has credited the Goodison Park faithful with spurring the players on to comeback wins
‘This is credit to the players, and to be fair the fans. The connection between the players and fans is good,’ said the Spaniard.
‘In those games the fans were expecting a reaction and they were patient and knew the team was trying to do something, and the team reacted to that – they reacted to the belief of the fans.
‘Due to the belief in the players we were able to do it twice. The connection with the fans is important because we want to be a very strong team at home.
‘It is all pleasing. We try to do our best, me and the staff, to make people happy and the way to do that is winning games.’
Ahead of the trip to Villa Park, Benitez said that James Rodriguez is training with his team-mates but it is difficult to assess whether the Colombian playmaker is ready to return to first-team duties.
The 2014 World Cup Golden Boot winner was brought to Goodison Park from Real Madrid last season by previous boss Carlo Ancelotti but is yet to feature under Benitez, having been heavily linked with a move away from the club during the transfer window.
The former Liverpool boss has revealed that James Rodriguez is training with his team-mates
However, Dominic Calvert-Lewin is ‘two or three weeks’ off returning from toe and quad issues
‘He’s training. These kind of weeks when you play a game and you have a day off in between, it’s not easy to see much from the first training session and we will see tomorrow in another training session. He is training normally with the team,’ said Benitez.
Benitez reiterated that there has been no change in Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s condition.
The striker now has a quadriceps injury to add to the broken toe he was nursing and Benitez said: ‘It’s what I said after the game on Monday night. We have to wait some weeks, we don’t know exactly how many but he will not be available for two or three weeks.’