This weekend Everton arguably face their toughest game of the season so far in the form of Manchester City away. Roberto Martinez’s men have set high standards in recent league games and he will hope that they will continue to do so at the Etihad Stadium. New signing Gareth Barry has been particularly influential in this current run of form and he has epitomised the winning attitude that Martinez has instilled in the squad. On the pitch Barry has controlled the midfield area for Everton, but unfortunately the team will be missing him for the game this weekend as he is ineligible.
There were groans of realisation amongst fans at the fact that Barry is unavailable, yet let us not forget that Everton possess the perfect midfield replacement in Darron Gibson. Although Gibson has been limited by injury to just one league cup appearance against Fulham, reliable whispers suggest he should be fit for this game.
Frustratingly for both Gibson and the fans alike, he endured a miserable pre-season that culminated in him coming off injured against Real Betis just a week before the league began. When Gibson was ruled out there was a sense of panic amongst the fans, as Everton were lacking the bodies in midfield to compensate for his loss. But the signings of Gareth Barry and James McCarthy have eased the worry felt by the supporters and some would argue that Everton have not missed Gibson during the start of the season.
Everton’s good start and the emergence of the new centre midfielders has somewhat left Gibson out in the cold. Across some fans forums there have surprisingly been (albeit a small number of) suggestions that he is in fact over rated. Every fan is entitled to their opinion, but it seems unfair to criticise the man who has really made Everton tick over the last two seasons.
Looking back at when Gibson first signed for Everton, a lot of fans were unsure over his ability, but they were happy to be proved wrong as he excelled in the anchor position. Everton went to the end of the 2011/12 season unbeaten in the League whenever he played (11 games) and over the next season, Everton’s win ratio continued to be higher with him in the team, rather than without him.
(Courtesy of the EPL index)
Taking some fans views into account, it seems Gibson has reached a similar crossroads in his Everton career. It is fair to say he may face a tall task in displacing either Barry or McCarthy from the team, but he certainly has the tools to do it.
Ironically Everton’s unbeaten start of last season ended when Gibson went off injured against West Bromwich Albion and whenever the team was without him they looked lost. Gibson now has the chance to ensure that the current run continues and it is his big chance to remind everyone just how good he is. With the competition for places stronger than ever, fans will hope that Gibson should be entering this game very motivated in order to regain his place in the side.
Being recalled to the Irish squad may also offer extra incentive and perhaps he and McCarthy can form a great Irish axis in the midfield for both club and country. It will be a tough game against City but Gibson has impressed against them in the past and supports will be confident of a repeat of him bagging the winner to silence the cash rich Mancunians.