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Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Echo
Beth Lindop

Gabby George admission offers key to Everton's Women's Super League revival

As the Everton players wheeled away to celebrate Gabby George's thunderous, right-footed strike against Reading on Sunday, it felt like the Blues' Women's Super League season had well and truly exploded into life.

The defender's spectacular long-range effort helped Everton secure a 3-2 victory over the Royals that saw them move up to fifth in the table. It was George's first goal since October 2018, though the 25-year-old has become an increasingly lucrative attacking outlet for the Blues since Sorensen's arrival in the summer.

The Dane's decision to convert George into a left wing-back has proved something of a masterstroke, with the defender also having registered two assists so far this term. And George believes Sunday's performance is further evidence of the improvements Everton have made with Sorensen at the helm.

READ MORE: 'We’ll see' - Brian Sorensen offers Everton transfer clue after Gio departure

READ MORE: New identity, Anfield glory and cup disappointment - Everton Women's season so far

"I thought it was going to take a while (for the squad to implement the manager's playing style) and I think it’s started to gel now," she told the ECHO after the game. "I think Brian has come in and brought in a lot of ideas and it’s all starting to gel together.

"We’re starting to get the performance levels that we need to get up to and we’re improving week on week. It’s been a long time since I got a goal.

"The girls put it into a good area for me to go and attack. I’ve been playing (at left wing-back) since Brian came in. It’s getting better and better each week."

While George is one of a number of Everton stars who's in a rich vein of individual form, the collective transformation of the squad and the ethos surrounding the club is undoubtedly Brian Sorensen's greatest achievement since his appointment last April.

The Dane inherited something of a disjointed outfit when he arrived on Merseyside, taking over a squad who had stuttered to a 10th-placed WSL finish after the dismissal of two permanent managers in the space of four months. Sorensen was recruited from Elitedivisionen side Fortuna Hjørring, with whom he had won two league titles and three Danish Cups, and he quickly asserted that his Everton side needed to establish exactly what their identity was on the pitch.

At Fortuna, Sorensen created a team renowned for their organisation and intensity. He assembled a side who looked to keep the ball on the ground and play through their opponents at pace.

His team defended from the front, with the full-backs encouraged to get forward and the midfielders capable of delivering a wide range of passes from tight spaces. It was a setup that saw Fortuna outperform Everton in a whole host of footballing metrics last season, with the Danish outfit besting the Toffees in categories like goals scored, expected goals (xG), passing accuracy and goals conceded.

But before he could implement a new playing style, Sorensen's first bit of business at Finch Farm was to oversee an overhaul of personnel, with nine departures and ten new arrivals in the summer transfer window. Among the incomings were Australian midfielder Clare Wheeler and Danish duo Sara and Karen Holmgaard, all of whom had played under Sorensen at Fortuna.

The 42-year-old also enlisted the services of a number of exciting young WSL talents, with Jess Park (Manchester City), Aggie Beever-Jones (Chelsea) and Emily Ramsey (Manchester United) all joining Everton on season-long loans. There were early glimpses of the identity Sorensen wanted to instil in the squad - the 3-0 rout of Liverpool at Anfield in September demonstrating just how much Everton had improved since the Dane's arrival.

But the Blues' last two league outings - against Tottenham and Reading - have most clearly illustrated what Everton can achieve when they pull together as a team to implement the manager's blueprint for success.

"Overall I feel we created a lot of chances, we played pretty football, the front three were working together with the midfield so I’m really pleased," Sorensen said after Sunday's win.

"We just need to keep working hard, being smart and prepare as good as we can as we did this week... I think we only have Manchester United out of the top four to play in the next few months so it’s up to us where we want to end up. We just need to keep improving and doing well."

Of course, there is still a way to go before Everton can compete for the WSL's top honours and break into the league's conventional 'Big Four'. The size of that task is perhaps most evident in Sorensen's comments on Gio Queiroz' return to parent club Arsenal earlier this month after the Brazilian's loan spell at Everton was cut short.

"We let Gio go back to Arsenal which contractually we didn’t need to do," he said, "but we want to work with Arsenal again with other loans and so on so they want her back and we let her go. That’s where we are in the food chain."

Indeed, it may take some time for Everton to earn a seat at the WSL's top table, and investment in the summer's transfer window is a must if the Blues hope to be seriously battling it out with the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United for a European spot. But, with a favourable run of fixtures to come between now and April - and with the squad looking like they are really beginning to click into gear - it feels like this really could be the start of an exciting new dawn for Everton.

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