Sat. Oct 1st, 2022

Everton winger Demarai Gray insists there is a different take on the squad following last season’s relegation scare.

The 1-0 win, courtesy of West Ham, who signed Neal Maupay’s first goal since February, saw the Toffees record their first victory after four straight draws.

But Gray admits it was a game they were likely to lose last season, when confidence was low and defensive vulnerability was an underlying feature.

However, the signings of defenders Conor Coady and James Tarkowski, as well as the return of Paris St Germain’s Idrissa Gana Gueye to play the role of holding midfielder, mean the team can take it even without the services of main forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Results

“Mentally it’s very important to the team. Even though we didn’t win a game at Prem (before Sunday), the spirit is really good,” Gray said.

“There is a different feeling around the players, there is confidence and energy in the camp and I think you saw it in our performances: we are stronger, we look more solid and we pose more of a threat.

“Last season we conceded a goal and our heads fell off. The fans may have been affected as well, and collectively we were in a rut that was difficult to get out of.

“We showed our character by standing up and standing at the end of the season, but I think it’s a completely different feeling with the team this season.

“By making a fresh start, we realize this is a great opportunity for us.

“We signed up with some players who were tremendous for the team and made us a lot stronger.

“There’s a much more natural trust within the team and the standard in training has also increased and that’s where it all starts.

“I think a lot of our results, even the draws, we couldn’t have had last season, so it shows the growth from the sides and that’s positive. I think we’re on the right track.”

Coady and Tarkowski have made a big difference as Everton’s new centre-back duo.

Back-to-back clean sheets mean Frank Lampard’s side has conceded just six goals in seven games – the second best partner in the Premier League.

This is all the more important as the Wolves and West Ham are still struggling to score as they have scored fewer goals in the top league.

The impact of the two players arriving this summer is evident not only in their defensive duties, but also in the character they provided to a fragile backline last season.

“They’ve been great since they arrived,” Gray added.

They have experience and a real defensive mindset, and they are also leaders, which is very important to us. It’s nice to have this solid foundation behind me as an offensive player.

“It’s a long season and we’re going to have our ups and downs, but we have an attitude and a mentality that we’re going to be strong and together, even if things aren’t going well.

You can see that in some of the results this season we had to win some and we had to crush some games and get a draw.”

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