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PHIL NEVILLE believes Everton FC must continue to keep opponents guessing if they are to maintain their high-flying Premier League form.
The Toffees skipper insists David Moyes’ side have enough flexibility to ensure they won’t become predictable – and says their evolution as a team has made them more attacking than ever.
Neville, 35, expects the Blues to encounter a tough challenge when Southampton come to Goodison on Saturday, but reckons they will be keen to recapture their fine from after Tuesday’s Capital One Cup set-back at Elland Road.
He said: “Sometimes you can play a certain way for one or two weeks and then you’ve got to find another way of playing to combat what other teams are doing against you.
“We’ve got great flexibility within the squad. Marouane Fellaini, for example, can play up front, he can drop and play in the holding position, so we have got flexibility.
“We’ve got players that can rotate in different positions and that makes it harder for the opposition and we’ll probably have to do that in the coming weeks.
“Otherwise it’s been an up and down week. We reached the heights at Swansea and there was a real feel good factor but on Tuesday we let ourselves down. We had a changed team but there was enough quality – we had nine internationals out there.
“Sometimes these things happen in football and especially cup competitions. The disappointment was we took 5,000 fans and they, like us, wanted a good cup run and we saw it as a competition we could have gone far in. The biggest task is how we react now.”
Belgium international Fellaini is one of a number of Everton players to have received widespread praise so far this campaign, and Neville warns that the impressive displays will lead to further scrutiny from opponents.
“You look at [Leighton] Baines, [Steven] Pienaar, Fellaini, [Kevin] Mirallas – these are the ones who are getting the headlines and I think with the performances, the headlines and the glory comes a bit of added attention from defenders,” he said.
“That’s what we’d do if we were playing against these types of players – we’d do our homework, we’d look at trying to nullify their strengths and capitalise on their weaknesses, so that’s something we’re all guarding against.”
High-scoring wins over Aston Villa, Leyton Orient and Swansea City has seen the Blues roll out an exciting style of football, and Neville says the trend in the Premier League towards attacking means they can’t afford to sit back in games.
“I think it’s a style we are trying to develop,” he added. “It’s the style of the Premier League now that you’ve got to go for the three points and you’ve got to go to score goals. One goal isn’t enough in the Premier League any more – sometimes two goals aren’t enough.
“Last week we were winning 2-0 at half-time and there was still that desire to score one more. It’s the way the league has gone over the past few years and playing for 0-0 draws is a thing of the past. I think it’s a league where he who dares wins.”
BRYAN OVIEDO hopes he can be another one of David Moyes’ mini-marvels.
The Goodison new-boy has the unenviable task of trying to take the place of either Leighton Baines or Steven Pienaar in the team, but sees it as a long-term challenge – while taking solace from his similarities with the pair.
While he admits the physical nature of English football has taken him by surprise, the 5ft 7in Costa Rican international insists the current incumbents of Everton’s highly-rated left flank – along with Leon Osman and Tony Hibbert – prove that size isn’t everything in the Premier League.
“The left side for Everton is very good,” he says at Finch Farm after a topsy-turvy first week proper when he featured in the 3-0 win over Swansea and then started in the 2-1 Capital One Cup shocker at Leeds United on Tuesday.
“Baines and Pienaar play very well and have played together for a long time.
“I can be there also but I’ll need to play well to have a chance.
“It’s difficult because English football is the best in the world, and it’s very hard and aggressive. I need to prepare for this when I’m called on.
“Some players are tall and strong but others are small and quick. Baines is still strong even though he is small and he is quick. Pienaar is the same. Of course I’m not tall either and I need to use my speed like them.”
Oviedo, who started at left-back at Elland Road, believes he is learning from one of the best in Europe when it comes to England international Baines.
“Leighton is a fantastic player. He’s a very, very good left-back. I see him in training and it’s important for me to learn from him and try to play like him,” he says.
“I can play left-back or left-winger but it’s up to the manager where he sees me. I’d be ready to play anywhere on the left for Everton.”
The former FC Copenhagen player refuses to be down-hearted after that sobering experience at the hands of Neil Warnock’s Championship outfit on Tuesday, but he is fully aware it was not good enough by any means for his new club.
“It was a difficult game against Leeds because we did not play well in the first 20 minutes and the first half was not great,” he says.
“We needed to be more aggressive and concentrate better.
“We were very good at Swansea but against Leeds we lost the ball too much and with the nature of cup games it put more pressure on us. We need to be better.”
At least, says Oviedo, one element of Tuesday’s ordeal was familiar to him: “It was a new experience for me. The strength of the players, and the cup but at least the rain was normal. In Denmark it rains all the time!
“I think maybe in a few weeks I can be better because I’ve only been here a short time and it’s tough to enter the team.”
Oviedo was a man in demand this summer, and Moyes had to fend off interest in a clutch of other clubs to win his signature, but the 22-year-old is thrilled to be on Merseyside and convinced he made the right choice.
“It was a dream to play here,” he says. “As a young boy I wanted to come to England and play.
There were other clubs who were interested in me but it’s not important now. I’m happy here and it was the best decision for me.
“The people at the club are very friendly. From my first day everyone was great with me.
“I’m feeling good and so grateful with the opportunity.
“The Danish league is a good league. Of course the English Premier League is a higher standard but it will just mean working harder and trying to get better over the next few months.”
Although he is unlikely to keep his place in the side when Southampton arrive in Walton tomorrow, Oviedo is as excited as anyone about the prospect of Everton topping the table for a while if they beat the Saints and Arsenal defeat Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium.
“It’s exciting to be third in the league but we need to keep winning,” he says.
“It’d be great to be at the top even for a short while. We need to keep this performance going and be better. I know I need to work hard because it’s a big team. I’ve only seen two games so far but the performance against Swansea was excellent, and I thought looking for the positives the second-half against Leeds was a bit better.”