Monday 11 December 2017

Stones sees positives for Everton

Everton defender John Stones believes a period of reflection has helped improve their form.
Everton defender John Stones believes a period of reflection has helped improve their form.

Everton defender John Stones believes a period of introspection and assessment has helped put wrong some of the side's problems.

The Toffees went into the 224th Merseyside derby with the fifth-worst defensive record in the Premier League but the goalless draw earned a third successive clean sheet.

Two of those, which have brought four points, have come since the squad returned from a warm-weather break in Qatar, where there was not only plenty of team-bonding but a large amount of time spent at looking where things have gone wrong this season.

"The break was massively important to regroup and regenerate and to look back on the games we played and look at the positives and negatives and try to put them straight," said the centre-back.

"We always have to keep in mind where we are going wrong but, especially for us, it was a great break to get away, pick a few key points which were going wrong in games.

"Everyone enjoyed it, particularly in the warm weather, and we got closer and bonded more.

"We have looked really solid at the back. We work hard on that and on trying to express ourselves going forward and I think we showed that in parts but not enough to go and get goals.

"We have really turned a corner and we are looking on the up in the second half of the season."

If holding their near-neighbours, who have clicked into another gear since the turn of the year, at bay took organisation and determination that and more will be required against the Premier League leaders on Wednesday.

Everton have not won at Stamford Bridge since 1994 but Stones believes they can face Chelsea confident in playing their own game.

"We will approach it as any other game, go in with a positive attitude and see how we can do," he added.

"They have a better balance in their team (than last season). Jose Mourinho is very good at picking his players and we have to go there with a plan, stick to it and see how we can break them down while playing our game.

"If we can do that, put a stamp on the game, and make Chelsea afraid of us in some sense I don't think we will do too bad.

"The gaffer wants us to play from the back so we will keep it moving on how we bring it out and start our football from the back.

"We will definitely go to Chelsea with that mentality of getting it out, playing it how we do, with a positive attitude."

For all the talk of positivity there was not much on show at Goodison Park.

Liverpool created more chances - the best of which saw 19-year-old Jordon Ibe strike the post on only his second Premier League start - and it was not until the 86th minute that the hosts registered their first effort on target when full-back Seamus Coleman forced Simon Mignolet to save.

But, on the plus side for the Blues, they defended solidly and welcomed back influential midfielder James McCarthy for his first appearance since December 28.

They will hope to have Leighton Baines back for the trip to Chelsea after he missed the game with a knee injury and while winger Aiden McGeady is out for longer with bone bruising on-loan Tottenham wide man Aaron Lennon made his debut in the derby and offers a like-for-like replacement.

Press Association

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