Rafael Benitez 'really pleased' with Everton's start but expects more to come

Toffees have won twice and drawn once in their first three games and face Burnley at Goodison Park on Monday

Rafael Benitez, left, has urged Everton to build on their promising start to the season. Getty Images
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Rafael Benitez has said he is delighted with Everton's start to the season but is expecting much more to come ahead of the Premier League clash against Burnley on Monday night.

Everton experienced an understated summer transfer window, with just £1.8 million ($2.5m) spent and most of their business focused on free transfers. Entering the new campaign with holes in the squad, initial expectations were comparatively lower to previous years, but two wins and a draw have increased optimism at Goodison Park.

While the fixture list might have been kind, having faced Southampton, Leeds and Brighton so far, Benitez is predicting Everton to push on from their promising start.

"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."

England striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin has scored in all three Premier League matches 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.

Calvert-Lewin, 24, 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," Benitez said. "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."

Burnley winger Dwight McNeil. Getty Images

While Benitez is expecting even more from Calvert-Lewin, Burnley manager Sean Dyche has laid down a similar marker for Dwight McNeil.

The 21-year-old winger has earned increasingly rave reviews for his performances, and Dyche has seen McNeil evolve into one of the top-flight's hottest properties since his debut in 2019.

"Dwight has been fantastic and I've been saying it for months and years - he started young and he progressed to earn the right to be a regular in the side," Dyche said.

"I still think there's more there, but I think he's a young player and to amass that amount of appearances so quickly is a great achievement."

Updated: September 12, 2021, 9:38 AM