Demarai Gray Lifts Everton With Strong Early-Season Performances

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Everton FC / Contributor

Rafa Benitez inherited several talented attackers when he took over at English Premier League club Everton, but one of his most surprising players in the early stages of the new season has been a new face on Merseyside. 

Demarai Gray scored his second league goal of the season in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Brighton & Hove Albion, continuing his strong start back in England. Gray was acquired this summer from Bayer Leverkusen and has been one of the club’s early contributors through four matches in all competitions. 

The England international didn't look set for a return to the EPL after an average six months with Leverkusen, but is proving doubters wrong so far.

“It’s always good to get a win before the international break and it’s been a great start for us,” said Gray post match at the Amex Stadium. “With the players we’ve got, we’ve used everyone very well -- the chemistry is good and I think over the season we are going to continue progressing.

“We train at a good tempo and it is very detailed. We feel comfortable [in our roles]. We have a good structure and that’s what the manager has drilled into us.”

Gray delivered his first goal for the club in a thrilling 2-2 draw at Leeds United, sliding a shot into the bottom corner from the left side of the Leeds box. Saturday’s goal was a similar effort at Brighton, this time beating Robert Sanchez to the bottom corner with another left-footed strike. 

The 25-year-old fell out of favor with Leicester City last season before earning a permanent move to the Bundesliga. After only one goal and two assists in 12 league outings, Gray moved back to England and now could force his way back into the England picture ahead of a busy period of World Cup Qualifying. 

Gray has partnered nicely with Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison in the Toffees attack and admits the speed of the group has played a vital role so far this summer.

“For my goal, we defended well and then we countered,” Gray said. “Running at speed and taking it on the outside makes it difficult for the defender. I did that and I’m happy to score.”

“We’ve got speed up top. For me, it’s about being direct. We’ve got to score to win games and going forward we’re very dangerous. I’m very confident, with the attackers we’ve got, we will create chances and score goals.”

Gray’s involvement in the club will only improve as Everton aims to stay near the top of the league table. Wins over Southampton, Leeds United, and Brighton & Hove Albion aren’t the most glamorous results, but the Toffees still have nine points out of nine and have also advanced in the Carabao Cup. 

The speedy winger will only earn more opportunities as the season goes on, especially if he continues to deliver goals for his new club. Everton heads into the two-week international break full of confidence before returning to action with matches against Burnley, Aston Villa, and Norwich City. 

Everton will be favored to continue its hot run to the new season and Gray will hope to be at the forefront of those beliefs. 

“Demarai is a young player who needed to be more consistent, he is at the beginning [of his Everton career] but he has done well,” said Benitez. “He has the quality to make a difference, it is just to make sure that mentally he is strong enough to continue in the same way he is now.

“I tell him so many times, he’s done nothing yet, he has to carry on training well, and if he does, he has the ability to influence games. He is working hard in training sessions, he is improving and has more confidence and is always pushing to play. It is nice when you have players who want to be on the pitch and train how Demarai does, so the manager selects him.”

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