Norwich City

Benitez Eyeing Long-Term Everton Gains

Rafa Benitez says the pieces are steadily falling into place to ensure a positive present and bright future for Everton.

Manager Benitez takes his side to Norwich City on Saturday hoping to boast his strongest hand since the first month of the campaign.

In addition to the uplifting sight of Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Yerry Mina participating in full training, Everton are bolstered by the acquisition of three players in the opening fortnight of the winter transfer window.

The loan signing of Anwar El Ghazi, insists Benitez, is a “win-win” arrangement, with the forward keen to earn a longer-term stay.

Benitez, speaking in his pre-match press conference on Friday, didn’t rule out further additions before the month is out.

But attention for now turns to this weekend’s visit to Carrow Road where Everton will target successive victories following the FA Cup success at Hull City six days ago.

“We saw in the Cup game that this team can react… but we want to be proactive and be sure we can be ahead and win games this way,” said Benitez.

“We approach every game with the idea we have to win.

“The players coming back are still not fully fit… match fitness comes with games.

“But we are quite confident now we have people coming back and we cannot forget we have three games in hand.

“We need to be sure when we play these games and have some wins, we will be in a much better position and it will be easier to play in the way we want.

“We are trying to change a lot of things, we had a lot of issues and problems.

“We are signing players and doing our jobs, so we are working 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…’. But if we have key players coming back, we will be stronger.

“The new signings bring competition, so we are improving and won’t have the same issues as in the past.

“We have tried to balance a squad that has to be stronger for the present and the future.”

Defender Vitalli Mykolenko could make a Premier League debut at Norwich following a sound first appearance for the Club in the victory over Hull.

The 22-year-old Ukrainian joined on New Year’s Day and was quickly followed in the door by fellow full-back Nathan Patterson, 20, from Rangers.

The new signings bring competition, so we are improving and won’t have the same issues as in the past. We have tried to balance a squad that has to be stronger for the present and the future.

El Ghazi is eligible to face Norwich after completing his temporary move from Aston Villa on Thursday.

The arrival of that trio was financially offset by Lucas Digne’s departure for Villa.

“The main thing for me is to think about my responsibilities and make decisions for the best of the team and the Club and for the best for the future,” said Benitez.

“We brought in a couple of young players, they are hungry and I am sure they will be good now but even better in future.

“It has to be positive for the Club when you are selling a player who will be 29 later this year.

"You bring in a player of 22 and a player of 20 in positions we needed to balance.

“We are balancing the squad and improving the economy and it’s quite positive for the present and the future.”

El Ghazi comes to Goodison Park following three-and-a-half seasons in English football with Villa. The 26-year-old former Ajax player scored 10 Premier League goals in 28 appearances – 17 starts – last term.

“It’s a loan with an option to buy, so the player has to prove himself,” said Benitez.

“We can see him. I think it’s a win-win situation.

“We did our research in terms of quality and personality. He’s a good lad and wants to impress, he told me he’s decided to come to fight and show his level.

“The positive thing is we have more quality and more competition.”

On the potential for further trading this month, Benitez added: “We are always hoping to strengthen the squad. We are looking in each position and if we have an opportunity available, we will try to do the best for us.

“We missed our top-class players but now they are coming back I have more confidence and, hopefully, we will start with this game [Norwich] and carry it on.

“We will have more chances because we have all the players available and they will be competing for positions.”

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