The views on this page are taken from the local and national media and do not necessarily reflect the views of Everton.
TONY HIBBERT insists Everton will not be daunted by the task of ending Manchester City’s mammoth unbeaten run at the Etihad Stadium.
Roberto Mancini’s side are undefeated in 36 Premier League home matches, dating back almost two years to December 2010.
But the defender, who made his injury comeback during Wednesday’s 1-1 draw with Arsenal, believes Everton should take plenty of encouragement from being the last side to beat the reigning Champions on home turf in the league.
He said: “The big teams are who you want to play against and the lads look forward to this game every season. The bigger the team the better.
“The character we have shown over the years is really blossoming and we are taking games by the scruff of the neck.
“It’s been like that all season. That’s more or less how we started. Teams are expecting us to play good football and the fans are happy with that.”
Hibbert is pleased to be back in the side as the Blues embark on a sequence of high-profile fixtures – with City, Spurs and Chelsea on the horizon before January.
A groin injury had kept the right-back out of action since the home match against Newcastle in mid-September.
But after impressing against the Gunners, Hibbert now wants to help keep City’s star-studded forward line and Spurs at bay as Everton seek to force themselves back into the top four mix.
“I picked the easy game (to come back),” the 30-year-old quipped. “I have had a long lay-off. The injury was niggling and kept coming back so I eventually got it sorted and I am happy to be back.
“It’s been frustrating and I don’t think any footballer likes to be sat in the stands and watching the team, so it was just good to get back out there.”
Hibbert’s defensive colleague Phil Jagielka was equally upbeat about the signs of recovery against Arsenal.
He said: “Fair credit to the boys – they dug in and we played some decent football,” was the stand-in captain’s assessment.
“We put them under pressure but unfortunately the second goal never came. After the first minute we were value for our point.
“We know we are playing some good football and we mix it up as well. Felli was again a great target man for us and brought a lot of people into play.
“Having Gibbo back with Ossie, we have two great footballers making us tick. Stevie (Pienaar) and Bainesy speak for themselves, so we have got some decent footballers out there.”
ANY side would miss the ‘complete midfielder’ and that is one of the accolades bestowed upon Darron Gibson in an admiring Goodison dressing room.
Indeed the Blues have sorely missed the Irishman’s under-stated qualities during his agonising three-month spell on the sidelines – and whether by coincidence or not – things are looking up swiftly after his return.
Gibson’s 73-minute run-out during the much-improved 1-1 draw with Arsenal was one of many promising signs in a game which restored some of the positivity to all things Everton ahead of a tough run of fixtures, and stand-in skipper Phil Jagielka was quick to praise the 25-year-old.
“It is nice to have him back,” Jagielka said. “He learnt his trade at Manchester United. He’s composed and has a good range of passing.
“He knows when you put the ball in behind and when to play to feet. He’s not afraid to tackle or head, so he is pretty much the complete midfielder.
“He’s a character as well and good to have around the dressing room.”
The man himself is rarely given to over-statement, but admits he is delighted to be back after struggling to overcome the thigh injury which saw him hobble off against West Brom on September 1.
“It was nice to be back. It’s been a long time coming and meant a lot of work in the gym so I was pleased to be back,” he said.
“It felt good. I came off with a knock on my foot but I’ll be alright for Saturday.
“It was frustrating to come off actually but maybe not doing the full 90 prevented any other niggles.
“It shouldn’t take too long before I’m back to full fitness. I’ve been putting it in with the physios and fitness coaches for the last six weeks.”
The announcement of Gibson’s name as the line-up was read out before the game received a noticeably louder cheer, and after he was given a warm ovation when he was replaced, the midfielder acknowledged the crowd’s appreciation of his talents.
“It was nice to be fair. I’ve been getting it for 12 weeks on Twitter asking when I was going to be back so it was a real lift,” he said.
“It’s been hard being out and I’ve had a few setbacks. Seeing the team play so well and not being involved was hard to take too so now I’m glad just to be back.
“I’d had a few problems with my thigh before the injury anyway and it needed sorting out so now hopefully it is.
“It doesn’t get any easier being injured. You just know how to deal with it. The physios here are great and they help.”
The Blues’ seventh draw of the season saw them slip back a place to sixth in the Premier League table, but Gibson feels they were unfortunate not to take all three points from Arsene Wenger’s men.
“I think we were unlucky over all,” he said. “We didn’t have the best of starts and it took us a while to settle but once we did we created chances although we couldn’t take them.
“We’ve got a tough run of games coming up but we’re playing well and creating chances. It would be worse if we weren’t. If we can keep everyone fit and carry on playing this way I think we’ll be alright.”
Nikica Jelavic showed signs of returning to his best against the Gunners, but Gibson knows he and his team-mates must help ease the scoring burden on Jelavic and top scorer Marouane Fellaini.
“We’ll have spells when we’re missing chances and not scoring,” he said.
“The rest of us have got to try and help them out. Hopefully we can start taking them now.”
Gibson’s highlight of last season was undoubtedly scoring his first goal for the Toffees in their 1-0 January victory over Manchester City, and with Roberto Mancini’s men up next tomorrow he is excited about facing the champions.
“I don’t look forward to it because of my United ties as such, it’s more because they’re probably the best team in the league at the minute,” said the Derry-born player. “You always want to play against them.
“They haven’t been as good as they were last season but it’s still early on.
“They’re still up there even though they’re not at their best.
“When we play at our best I think we can beat anyone.”
Everton have enjoyed a good run of results against the Citizens, and Gibson is ultimately confident that can continue – while he is focusing on staying fit and contributing to the Blues’ fight to get back into the top four.
“If we play as well as we did against them last season we’ll do alright,” he said.
“The main thing for me is trying to stay fit and if I do the rest will come.”
Arsenal star Mikel Arteta reckons rivals Everton have a powerful weapon in the battle for a Champions League place – Marouane Fellaini.
Former Goodison idol Arteta returned to his old club on Wednesday, as the Gunners and Toffees played out a 1-1 draw.
And the Spaniard says Fellaini, who replaced him as hero of the Blues fans and scored in the midweek clash, is so good that at times he becomes unplayable for opposition defences.
Arteta said: “Fellaini is one of the most difficult midfielders to play against because of his size.
“You don’t normally come up against players like that in that position.
“When he’s used in that forward position around the box it is much more difficult to play against him.
“He creates a lot of problems, uses his size well and is a threat around the goal – as you can see from his goals.
“For me, he is much more efficient playing there than when he is deeper.
“I have seen a tremendous improvement in Fellaini, especially in that forward position.”
ARSENAL’S Mikel Arteta says his side now have a fight on their hands to qualify for the Champions League.
Arsenal’s failure to capitalise on Walcott’s opener after 49 seconds against Everton on Wednesday means they have won just one of their last five league games, the 5-2 win over Tottenham – who have now moved above them in the Premier League.
Arteta said: “Spurs are challenging now, West Brom have lost but have been doing really well and I think Everton have got a good chance if they keep everyone fit.
“The first 11-12 is really strong and they have started the season well, which I know from my time here is not normal! In the long run they will be there.
“I always want Everton to do the best they can. I love the players and the club and they are a big part of my life.
“That is not going to change because I play for a different club now.”