Rafa BenÝtez: Press Conference before Norwich


How did the signing of Anwar El Ghazi come about?

To be fair, it was part of the deal with Digne when we started the conversations [with Aston Villa]. Thinking about COVID situations, possible injuries, the Africa Cup of Nations with Iwobi away, it was the possibility of bringing someone in with quality that could give us different options.

The good thing is that because it’s a loan with an option [to buy] so the player has to prove himself.
We can see him. I think it’s a win, win situation. If he’s doing well then everybody will be happy, and I think that is the positive thing that we have more quality in the squad and more competition.

Rumours of signing forced upon you. Is this a signing you wanted to make?

We were talking about that before and what I said was we needed a player in this area that could be capable to play in different positions. We did our research in terms of quality, personality, he’s a good lad and he wants to impress, that’s the main thing. I was talking with him, he told me that he’s decided to come and fight to show his level. It was a positive conversation and after that it was clear to bring someone in on these conditions. The only thing I can see is a positive for everyone.

Thoughts on losing Lucas Digne to a side three points higher than Everton in the table?

The reality is when you have a player who is thinking about leaving and then you have an offer, the main thing for me as a manager is to think about my responsibilities to make decisions for the best of the team, the best for the Club, and then the best for the future. We brought in a couple of young players, they are good and hungry players that I am sure will be good now but even better in the future.

Overall, I think it’s something in the end that has to be positive for the Club when you are selling a player that will be 29-years-old later this year. You bring in a player of 22 and a player of 20-years-old in different positions that we needed to balance. I think we are balancing the squad, improving the economy and then hopefully everything will be positive for us.

Reaction to Digne’s comments made in social media post?

What I said before, I am the manager and I take responsibility of my decisions.

My decision is to think about the team, the future of the Club, and I think we have to move forward and think about that.

Additional funds with Digne sale and midfielder next target?

We are always hoping to strengthen the squad. We are looking in each position, if we have an opportunity available then obviously we will try to do the best for us.

The reality also is that we balance the books and I think it’s quite positive also for the present and the future. We are open to any good option and at the same time I am pleased that we have brought in three players early in the transfer window. Everything I said we could do, we did it and now what we have to do is be sure that this competition between players allow us to win more games.

Just one more signing this window or more?

At the moment, we are happy with the three we have brought in but we are open minded and if we can bring in anyone else that can improve the team then we are also ready for that.

Injury update on Calvert-Lewin, Branthwaite, Delph, Yerry Mina and Richarlison?

All of them were training yesterday so at the moment the only player not available through injury is Tom Davies who had his operation.

In terms of injuries, everyone was on the pitch yesterday or they were training. Now we have to treat them carefully but at the moment they are fine. It’s up to us to decide who can be available for this game or the next games.

Timescale on Davies return?

It’s difficult to say. With these kind of things you are expecting more than one month because if I say two or three, it will be too much for me. It has to be the surgeon and after the physio but I’m sure one or two months he will be out.

Must-win game for both sides this weekend?

We saw in the cup game that this team can react. What we want to do is not react, we want to be proactive and then be sure that we can be ahead and win games this way. For us, every game is a game that we have to win, and we approach everyone with this idea. The players coming back are still not fully fit, people also need to understand that. Match fitness comes with games.

But, we are quite confident now that we have people coming back and also we cannot forget that we have three games in hand. We need to be sure that when we play these games and we have some wins, we will be in a much better position and it will be easier to play in the way that we want to play.

No new COVID cases?

Maybe we have someone, but we will see tomorrow. I think it’s not easy to have no one with COVID.

Message to fans about unity?

It is very clear. Every year is the same. All the fans at all the clubs realise that the best thing to do to get the best out of the team is for everyone to stay behind the team. There is a lot of time later on when you can analyse what is right or wrong, but the experience here is that changing things in the middle of the season isn’t ideal. We have a lot of things that we are trying to change. We have a lot of issues and problems - little by little you can see that. We are signing players and doing our jobs, so we are working in a way that is how you work at a professional football club that wants to be competitive. We are changing things in different departments - and I think we are improving at that. It is very easy to say ‘but on the pitch…’ If we have the key players coming back, then we will be stronger. The new signings bring competition so I think we are improving and we won’t have the same issues that we’ve had in the past. We have tried to balance a squad that has to be stronger for the present and the future.

Anwar El Ghazi joining on loan…and beyond?

It is quite simple, yes. When I was talking with him he showed me his desire to come here, do well and impress, so I think it is a win-win situation ion everything is fine.

Norwich City challenge…

We can’t underestimate any rival in the Premier League. A lot of teams have quality and they have good moments and bad moments. In terms of playing, they play well but concede goals. I watched the last game against West Ham and for 40 minutes they were in the game. I am not saying we can’t go there thinking about winning - we have to do it. We have a lot of respect for the other team.

Lucas Digne

I try to do what's best for the team. If you are in a boat and if someone isn’t rowing at the strength you are expecting, then you have to make a decision. Thinking about the future, hopefully, it will be good in terms of new players coming, more competition and balancing the squad. Economically it is good business so hopefully, it will be right.

Lucas’ money allowing more movement in the window?

Not really. It helps in terms of the financial situation. It was tight and complicated at the beginning. Now we are doing better business and the squad is in a much better position. We are in a stronger position than 15 days ago. Hopefully we can show that on the pitch in the next few months.

False league position?

We know the situation. Our top scorers of last season have been injured and then we had Doucoure and Mina out. We went through a spell when we lost games, but we had the spine of the team missing. We now have them back so hopefully we are a bit stronger, but as I say, in the next month we will be even stronger - especially with three games in hand. You put all these things together and we have to be quite optimistic about the future.

Problems: on the field or off it?

Every fan knows what they were expecting in the last year. We are trying to fix these things to make sure the squad will be more competitive - and we can find solutions to problems if we have them. This year hasn’t been easy. We haven’t had money available in the transfer window and we have had to cope with injuries to key players. We are doing the right things for the future and at the end everyone will appreciate that.

Pressure if you don’t beat Norwich…

Hull in the cup last weekend was a must-win game to progress. We conceded a goal but we reacted. We had a lot of chances and we did it. This year we have had issues because we missed our top-class players but now they are coming back I have more confidence and hopefully we will start with this game and we will carry it on. We will have more chances because we will have all the players available and they will be competing for positions.

Thoughts of playing five at the back and conceding goals?

It was clear, it is difficult to explain things when you lose. But it was easy to analyse. We made individual mistakes which cost us the game. We have had this issue for a while, playing with three, four or five at the back. It is not a question of systems. It is more tactics.

We need to have more intensity and aggression at the beginning of games to be sure we are strong enough and don’t give hope to the other teams and put ourselves in a difficult position.
We have been talking about that and know we have to improve it and, hopefully, we will see we have learned from our mistakes in the next games.

Players adapting to systems?

If I change your environment, what do you need to do well? To practice? We practice and train and coach the players in different systems and they have experience of playing in different systems.

It is not about systems, it is about what they are capable of doing and confidence and a lot of things together Asa coach I’ve played different systems with different teams in a season. It is just to coach them and be sure they understand the principles. To concede a goal the other day, or the first or second goals against Brighton, are nothing to do with the system It is a question of focusing and paying attention and being more concentrated, then it will be easier.

How has Vitalii Mykolenko settled in?

We knew the player, an international, one of the first names we had as a left-back. I was impressed. We thought he didn’t talk any English. He talks a little bit and understands a lot of things. He is very keen to learn. We have been watching clips with him and Patterson about what we do and how we want to do it. He is a hard worker and nice lad and always keen to learn He is aware of what is going on around him and asking questions. I am really impressed.

Every player, especially foreign players and someone coming from Ukraine, will need time to adapt
But I see the desire to be a very good player for Everton Football Club for the next four or five years and, hopefully, longer.

You have good wingers, top quality striker, good central holding midfielders but maybe missing that type of player you had in Valencia in Pablo Aimar, who plays in the hole... The conductor in-chief... Is that a player that costs an awful lot of money in January but is that the type of player you need to link everything together?

If you play 4-2-3-1, this player who plays behind the striker is the player that can link with the others, so it's very clear that these kind of players, normally they are top-class players with quality that everybody can see because they give assists and they can finish. Normally, also, they take set pieces and they are quite good. Then, in this case, we have been using in this position Richarlison at the beginning, when they were not available we even used Gray, Iwobi and even Townsend in this position, so we are looking to find this player who can link with the others and can make the others play better. But if we don't have this player, be sure that we use the players that we have with quality in the wide areas and up front. We couldn't in terms of strikers but in terms of wingers we are doing that, so we are replacing this number 10 with players in the wide areas who can make the difference. We are happy with the performances of Gray, Anthony Gordon and Andros Townsend and hopefully now El Ghazi and Iwobi when he comes back will increase the competition - and maybe we don't need this number 10 because Richarlison and Dominic are doing really well as the strikers.