• Premier League

Everton have the edge over Arsenal - Howard

ESPN staff
April 14, 2014
Advantage Everton?

Tim Howard believes that Everton's resilience has given them the advantage in their battle with Arsenal for the final Champions League spot.

Howard kept his 100th clean sheet for the club as they won 1-0 at Sunderland on Saturday to move above the Gunners into fourth place in the Premier League.

Everton had to scrap for their seventh successive league win, secured when Gerard Deulofeu's cross was turned in for an own goal by Wes Brown in the 75th minute.

The performance was in contrast to the free-flowing football that had earned Roberto Martinez's side a 3-0 win over Arsenal at Goodison Park six days earlier.

But Howard was happy to see his team-mates show some fight to go with their finesse - particularly given that Champions League qualification is in their hands.

"You don't mind it being a bit scrappy every now and then because you almost want the confirmation that we've got it in us," he told the Liverpool Echo.

"We know we can play good football but we never want to get away from that Everton fighting spirit, that ability to dig in. Games like this remind us that's still in us which is important."

"Just a clean sheet helps, every time, because it gives you a platform. It couldn't be better than that. As much as you keep fighting, if you're having to hope that Arsenal lose, that's draining. To be able to just focus on us is helpful."

A key factor in Everton's win was another impressive display at centre-back from England Under-21 defender John Stones, who has played in every one of his side's seven successive league wins as captain Phil Jagielka has recovered from a hamstring injury.

Stones has played well enough to cast doubt in Howard's mind that Jagielka will automatically regain his place when fit again.

"Stonesy has been good. Sometimes you learn a lot about people when they're thrown into the fire," Howard added.

"With our captain getting injured and us having to seek a very quick solution, it's sink or swim time. So it says a lot about him and it's helpful to get a run of games for him.

"It's hard for the manager. Injuries are tough because before Jags got injured we were playing brilliantly and he was doing brilliantly and you shouldn't lose your place because of an injury. Then Stonesy has played so well. We'll let the manager sort it out."

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