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 Posted by Mike Whalley
Apr 13, 2014

Howard says Everton have edge

FC's Steve Nicol gives his take on who will take fourth place in the English Premier League, Arsenal or Everton.

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

Tim Howard believes his Everton squad have the resilience to hold off Arsenal in the Premier League race for fourth.

The United States international goalkeeper 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 teammates show some fight to go with their finesse -- particularly given that Champions League qualification is in their hands.

The 35-year-old told the Liverpool Echo: “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.

“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," said Howard. "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.

The keeper said: “Stonesy has been good. Sometimes you learn a lot about people when they’re thrown into the fire.

“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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