Allan exclusive interview: Everton midfielder on working with Rafael Benitez and putting the team first | Football News

“It can’t and it shouldn’t happen,” Allan tells Sky Sports. The Everton midfielder is reflecting on the late collapse at Goodison Park which allowed Watford to claim a 5-2 win and sent supporters storming towards the exits before the final whistle on Saturday.

For Everton, it was a disheartening defeat which raised familiar questions following a strong start to the campaign. For Allan, a £25m signing from Napoli last September, it was also a reminder of the intensity and unpredictability of English football.

“That’s the biggest difference from Italian football,” he says. “It’s faster and more intense. As we saw in that game, you can concede four goals in a short space of time, so you always need to be ready both physically and mentally, knowing things can turn even after 90 or 95 minutes. There are no games you can take lightly.”

The 30-year-old is speaking over Zoom from the club’s Finch Farm headquarters, where Everton’s players and staff have spent the week reflecting on what went wrong and how best to put it behind them when they face Wolves on Monday Night Football.

“It was such a strange game because everything was in place for us to get a good result,” he says. “We’ve talked about it a lot and the manager has shown us videos. I hope it will never happen again. We will go into the next game with the right mentality to get the win.”

The challenge for Allan and his team-mates is to return to the level at which they started the season.

Rafael Benitez’s appointment was not a popular one among supporters but four wins, two draws and one loss from their first seven Premier League games provided foundations to build on.

Allan agrees. He was attracted to Everton in part because of Carlo Ancelotti, under whom he shone at Napoli, but after an injury-hit first season in England, during which a hamstring problem interrupted his progress, he is enjoying playing consistently under the Italian’s successor.

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“My experience with professor Ancelotti was really good and important for me, without doubt,” he says. “We were obviously not expecting his exit but we know these things happen in football and, as he said himself, it was an opportunity he couldn’t refuse.

“But it’s been a great experience working with Rafa Benitez. He is a really experienced coach who has worked at some of the biggest clubs and won a lot of trophies. He is helping us all improve as players on the pitch and helping us improves as a group as well.”

Allan has been practically ever-present under Benitez, with only Michael Keane and Lucas Digne playing more minutes. “Personally speaking, it’s been a really good start,” he says. “I’ve been available and ready to help the team in every game.”

The Brazilian has impressed at the base of Everton’s midfield and although his role in the side is a more defensive one than what he was used to at previous clubs Napoli and Udinese, he is happy to put the team first and feels he is adapting well.

Allan spent five seasons at Napoli, making 212 appearances and scoring 11 goals
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Allan spent five seasons at Napoli, making 212 appearances and scoring 11 goals

“At Napoli, we played in a 4-3-3 and I played in the position they describe in Italy as Mezzala, which is to the side of the midfield three,” he says.

“That position gives you more freedom to do the box-to-box role. You get more chances on goal, you get into the box more, and you have the opportunity to provide assists.

“What Rafa asks of me is that I’m a more defensive type of player, that I provide cover for the defence, meaning I don’t often get very close to the opposition box.

“It’s different but I’m always looking to adapt to whatever my manager’s instructions are and it’s very important to follow those instructions. I just want to do my best for Rafa Benitez and Everton.

“I like playing in a midfield two as well as in a three and, as players, it’s important we are always ready to play in any style or formation.”

Allan goes up for a header during the defeat to Watford
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Allan goes up for a header during the defeat to Watford

Allan averaged around two goals and four assists per season during his eight-year spell in Serie A and while there have been glimpses of his attacking qualities this season – he registered his first assist in the 2-0 win over Brighton in August – his primary duty has been to provide a platform for midfield partner Abdoulaye Doucoure to rampage forward.

The pair have developed an excellent understanding. With Allan sweeping up behind him – only two players have made more tackles in the Premier League this season – Doucoure produced two goals and four assists in seven Premier League games before being sidelined by a foot injury ahead of the Watford clash.

“It’s a tremendous loss for us,” says Allan. “Doucoure is a fantastic player and he started the season so well, scoring goals, getting assists and putting in really high-level performances.

“He is a physical player and he plays the box-to-box role with ease, both defensively and offensively. He is a huge loss to the team but we do have other players who can come in, like Jean-Philippe Gbamin, Tom Davies and Andre Gomes, when he’s back from injury.”

Doucoure’s energy was certainly missed in the closing stages of Saturday’s meeting with his former side but it’s Allan who has covered the most ground among Everton players this season – in fact, only 12 Premier League players have run further – and he is ready to take on more responsibility in his partner’s absence.

Allan
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Allan’s role remains a defensive one but he has been more active on the left-hand side of Everton’s midfield this season, according to his events by zone maps

“Of course, your role does change a bit depending on who you are playing alongside, but we are all capable of adapting to play with each other,” he says. “I just want to do my best and I know whoever comes in and covers Doucoure in midfield will do the same.”

Allan will have a big say in how Everton cope without Doucoure in the weeks ahead but the challenge of eradicating the mental frailties that resurfaced against Watford is one for the collective.

“That’s something we are aiming to improve and build on from last season,” says Allan. “It’s a question of strengthening our mentality and never being satisfied.

“So, for example, if we win a game, not to get carried away but focus on winning the next one. Similarly, when we lose a game, to not let our heads go down and instead focus on turning things around.

“We are working very hard towards that and we have talked a lot about how important it is that we are at 100 per cent not just physically but also mentally because we want to have a really good season – a much better season than the last one.”

Allan in action against Man Utd's Paul Pogba at Old Trafford
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Allan in action against Man Utd’s Paul Pogba at Old Trafford

For Allan, there is the added motivation of winning back his place in the Brazil squad. He won 10 caps during his time at Napoli but he has not featured since moving to Everton and he is eager to change that.

“It’s my dream to be back in the Seleção and represent my country at the World Cup next year. To do that, I need to be putting in very good performances for my club, getting positive results and working hard so that, if the opportunity does come, I am totally ready.”

Saturday’s defeat to Watford was a setback in that respect but Allan is determined to put things right under the lights at Molineux on Monday night. “It’s an opportunity to turn our form around,” he says. “We will be fully prepared to take it.”

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