Everton’s Mason Holgate knows the quality of talent in his club.
With big results against big Premier League giants last season but some head-scratching performances against lesser opposition, Holgate believes an increase in focus will help the Toffees contend for a place in Europe in 2021-22.
Everton, after all, took four of six points from Liverpool, Leicester City, and Tottenham, swept Arsenal, and drew Manchester United at Old Trafford.
It also took zero points from Newcastle and lost to Sheffield United, Burnley, and Fulham at Goodison Park.
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“I don’t know the statistics in it but in my head if you look at the results last year against the big teams we were up there against anyone in the league, not often getting beaten,” Holgate said, speaking to ProSoccerTalk while Stateside for the Florida Cup, which saw Everton defeat Millonarios in penalties on Sunday ahead of a friendly with Mexico’s Pumas UNAM on Wednesday.
“But we lost a lot of points against the lower teams in the league, so if somebody asks which way you’d want it, I’d choose this one because it’s easier to work on consistency. Taking the experience of going out and winning the big games, and doing that every single week.”
Everton hired the coach for that particular job when it lured Rafa Benitez back to Merseyside to replace Carlo Ancelotti.
Everton players excited to work with Benitez
Benitez is known for his big expectations and rigid training sessions, something that the 24-year-old Holgate has already noted in his first few weeks with the ex-Liverpool and Napoli boss.
“It’s early days, but the consistency of the training sessions is clear to see already,” Holgate said. “The way that he’s trying to do the same things and wants you to keep doing the same things, drilling it into us, it’s going to become second nature so it doesn’t matter who we’re playing against, we just have to do our job. Because talent-wise, we know what kind of squad we have and we should be competing for European places.”
Holgate took some big steps under Ancelotti in 2020-21, making his most PL starts and appearances while setting new career standards for tackles per 90 minutes (2.56), blocks (2.17), and percentage of duels won (64.6).
But he wouldn’t go as far as to call his season, which started two months late thanks to an ankle injury, a leap forward.
“Ultimately a small step,” Holgate said. “Center back is a thinking role that comes with experience but it was a big step in that it was the first season I felt like I was looked upon to lead. Before I was seen like one of the young lads, just go in and do what you can do. Now it’s only Seamus Coleman (pictured with Holgate above) who’s been there longer than me, so there’s an onus to show the boys what it means. That’s brought out a different part of my game and my character. It’s something I’m enjoying and hopefully it’s something I can build on until I get to those years where I’m peaking.”
We also asked Holgate about the highs and lows of following England’s incredible run to the EURO 2020 Final.
Holgate said following his good friend Jordan Pickford’s success en route to the runner-up finish made it even more fun.
“If you look at the performances the team put in, it’s something that brought the whole nation together,” Holgate said. “Everything literally stopped (when there was a match). The country came to a standstill. One of my best friends is Jordan and to see him do so well, it was just massive. I was so happy for him. It’s unbelievable as someone who’s always supported England.”
England national team is leading anti-racism battle
Holgate was appalled but not surprised at the racial abuse given to Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Bukayo Saka after the trio missed penalties in the final.
While Holgate was encouraged by the widespread rebuking of the abuse, he noted that some of the people shocked by it should take a look in the mirror.
“I don’t know what it’s like in America, but people act shocked about things like this but at the start of the tournament, England is taking a knee and a lot of people were stepping out and saying they disagree,” Holgate said. “So now when this side of it comes afterwards, those people saying they can’t believe it’s happened and condemning it can’t act shocked when things like this happened. It just doesn’t really make sense. People are quick to support the black players and were loving it when Sterling scored. Then the three lads missed penalties, and everybody misses penalties it doesn’t matter your skin color. It’s good to see so many people against the few.”
Back to this week’s competition, Holgate says the United States has been his favorite place to visit, though he won’t get to go to his beloved theme parks on this trip.
He’s enjoyed time in Orlando, Los Angeles, New York City, and Las Vegas the most.
Well, sort of.
“The week after I wouldn’t have picked Vegas as my favorite, but at the time…”