Hail The New Carsley & Gravesen
Howard says Gibson & Felli can emulate iconic baldy duo
Tim Howard believes Everton have a new midfield partnership to rival the famous Gravesen/Carsley combination.
The folically challenged pairing of Irishman Lee Carsley and Dane Thomas Gravesen forged a formidable double-act for the Blues in the early years of David Moyes' Goodison tenure.
Carsley's tough-tackling, no-nonsense approach perfectly complemented Gravesen's more free-spirited, mercurial approach to the game.
It was a pairing that proved pivotal in helping secure Everton's best finish of the Premier League era.
Now, seven years on, the man charged with providing the Blues' last line of defence has seen signs of a new dynamic duo in the heart of the Blues' midfield.
He told evertontv: "I think Darron and Felli have (replicated the Carsley/Gravesen partnership) in that they are both good passers of the ball, they are really tough and as soon as Darron got here you could see there was something there.
"It takes 25 to 50 games together to really cultivate that, it doesn't happen overnight. But even then (in that first game) you could really see the early stages of a good partnership.
"They are both young with a lot of experience and if we can keep those guys healthy, it will be really good for us because you like to have a solid spine to the team."
It has been well-documented that Irishman Gibson, signed from Manchester United in January, has yet to end the game on the losing side as an Everton player.
His arrival has also coincided with a notable increase in clean-sheets recorded by Moyes' men.
Howard insists it is no coincidence, with the 24-year-old providing a crucial ingredient in the side's defensive line - acting as Everton's new Carsley.
He explains: "I'm a firm believer that if you limit other team's chances, you limit goals. We've done a great job of that since the Christmas period in terms of getting teams on our terms by putting them in positions in the final third where we want them and where they don't want to be. We've been closing down shots, taking away angles and bringing in support from elsewhere to double up.
"We've not given away many fouls and we've cut out a lot of corner-kicks. When you do those things really well and consistently you are not going to give up as many goals. I really feel like my communication with whoever has been at the back has been strong. Everybody is very demanding but also encouraging and that all leads to clean sheets and points.
"And you need your holding midfielder to protect the back four. Darron has done great for us in a number of aspects - but particularly in anchoring the midfield.
"Frankly, since Lee Carsley left we haven't had somebody in that mould. We've had some really good central midfielders, but what Darron does is sit, protects the back four, links play, gets stuck in and is a good passer of the ball. He allows Felli and Tim Cahill to get forward and he can release them with passes. To have a guy in there who likes to roll his sleeves up and who wants to be known as part of that unit really helps us because it gives us that extra support that we need."