Everton winger Alex Iwobi is happier with his football than he has been for a long time – even if new manager Sean Dyche’s methods have left him too tired to get off the sofa.
The 26-year-old, who said talks over a new contract are looking “positive”, has been one the club’s best performers over the last 18 months.
But as he begins life under a fifth different permanent boss at Goodison Park since arriving in 2019, the Nigeria international knows he cannot rest on his laurels after he and the squad were given an early indication of the rewards Dyche’s approach to the physical side of the game can bring following the victory over Premier League leaders Arsenal last weekend.
“Of course it has been tough for the past three years – it wasn’t a great start when I signed – but I’m probably the happiest I’ve been for a while,” said Iwobi.
“I am consistently playing a lot of football and especially at Everton, it’s a very good club with a lot of history in the Premier League.
“I am happy, I just hopefully can maintain that and keep going.”
Dyche moved Iwobi out wide from the central role he occupied under Lampard but the player insists having to readjust is not a problem for him.
“Where I am fortunate is that I have had different positions to adapt to,” he added.
“I have played everywhere since I was a kid, bar centre-back, so no matter what role I have been asked to play I have learned and adapted quickly.
“Sometimes I haven’t even known where I am going to playing even in training. I’m back out wide with this manager but wherever he wants me to play I will try.
“At the end of the day, it’s for the team to get the best results. It doesn’t faze me too much.”
After more than three months without a victory the relegation-threatened club felt the full effect of a new manager bounce with a win over the Gunners just five days after Dyche took over.
During that game the team as a whole ran far more than they had under previous boss Frank Lampard, whom Iwobi credits with restoring his confidence.
That switch to full-blooded commitment on the pitch, allied to some typically no-nonsense rules on the training ground instigated by the former Clarets manager, is already having an effect.
Asked how he celebrated the night of the long-awaited win, Iwobi said: “I was shattered. I stayed at home recovering. I couldn’t move. When I got back I was slumped on my sofa.
“Everyone has to do a lot of selfless work for the team. It’s something we have tapped into and we were able to get a result against Arsenal.
“They were our best running stats of the season and we have set a standard that we have to continue to meet.
“Maybe it is a shift in mindset. Now we know we can do it, we should have been able to do it before.”
One of the first rules Dyche instigated was the wearing of match-applicable attire in training, dispensing with ankle socks and reintroducing shin pads.
“I love a snood, I cannot lie, I love a snood. And I love doing this with my hands (pulling his shirt sleeves over hands). I do it as a comfort thing but he says, ‘hands out of sleeves’. You have to change really quick otherwise he is on to you.”
Everton head to Anfield on Monday for the 242nd Merseyside derby as Dyche’s supposed difficult start continues but Iwobi sees it as an opportunity.
“Even though Liverpool aren’t doing too well at the moment and neither are we so it’s another game that if we make a statement there we can push on again,” he said.