Rafael Benitez pleased with Everton start but believes best is still to come

The Toffees have picked up seven points from their opening three matches.
Rafael Benitez pleased with Everton start but believes best is still to come

By Carl Markham, PA

Everton may have enjoyed a better start to the season than expected but manager Rafael Benitez is confident there are greater improvements to be made.

The summer transfer window did not go entirely to plan for the Spaniard – with just £1.8million spent and the majority of business being free transfers – and holes still remain in the squad, but they have begun with two wins and a draw.

While the fixture list might have been kind, having faced Southampton, Leeds and Brighton so far, the former Liverpool manager is predicting much better things to come.

“I am really pleased. We are doing well, the team in this period is very good with their commitment and the way they are playing,” he said ahead of Monday’s visit of Burnley.

“We are scoring goals, we had a clean sheet (against Brighton last time out) so there are a lot of possibilities.

“But it is still too early because we have to expect even more from this group of players as they have the quality and right mentality, so they will be better.

“In football sometimes the approach of the players, the commitment, the desire and way they play is good enough but you cannot get the results you are looking for.

“I am expecting – and not because I am not happy – better things and better play and more exciting games because I think the players can do it.”

Striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin has scored in all three Premier League fixtures so far but Benitez believes a player who netted 16 league goals last season, Everton’s highest total since Romelu Lukaku in 2017, has more to give.

The 24-year-old has been hampered by a niggling injury which forced him to pull out of England’s squad for their recent World Cup qualifiers.

“He is doing well but is one of the players from whom we are expecting more,” added Benitez.

“Why? Because he was not fully fit and he was making an effort to be on the pitch, he has been training with pain so I am really happy to see him trying in the training sessions when he is not fully fit.

“I know we can talk about strikers and goals but I think he has a contribution for the team in terms of effort, assists and goals and am convinced he will do it.”

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