JOHN Heitinga admitted Everton’s form against the Premier League’s top clubs has suffered a worrying dip so far this season – but insists they will recapture their defiance.
The Holland international started his second consecutive game in the 1-0 defeat by Manchester United on Saturday, as the Blues dropped to 16th.
But although Heitinga, 27, accepts the gap has widened between Everton and the top four, he says their majority possession and work ethic deserved greater rewards against Alex Ferguson’s side.
He said: “Of course they have the money and the better players. But if you consider how much money they spent on their team, and how much money we spent on our team then the gap is not so big because we were the better team at times.
“But you have to be realistic, and the top four is better than the rest at the moment. At the moment the gap seems wider.
“Last season and two seasons ago we would beat all the big teams here, and so far we haven’t got one point against the big sides. So it’s for us to fight a little bit harder, and we’ll see what’s going to happen in the future.
“The United game was one of our better games recently. We had a lot of possession and created a lot of chances, but we were a little bit unlucky because they had only two or three shots on goal and scored a goal. We had plenty of chances but just couldn’t score.”
Heitinga, who joined from Atletico Madrid in summer 2009, believes referee Mark Halsey denied Everton a legitimate 93rd minute penalty during Saturday’s game, when Magaye Gueye appeared to be fouled by Patrice Evra.
“It was a big opportunity when Magaye came into their area, and in my eyes it was a penalty kick but OK you have to accept the decision of the referee,” he said. “We needed to be a little bit lucky in those situations.
“The league table doesn’t look great, but if you see the teams we’ve played against in the last couple of weeks, you know we need to win in the next few games. The start last season was worse than this season.”
Asked if Everton would benefit from signing a striker in January, the defender said: “Of course, but then you need money.
“We have got a good squad if everybody is fit, and in the game against Chelsea we showed that the form of the team and the spirit is good. Everyone was trying to win every battle and show the crowd that we wanted to give a good performance.
“I was out for a bit with a small injury, and I’ve been back in training for two weeks and I’m feeling fit and well. I’m looking forward to playing, and I’m still happy to be playing for Everton because it’s great to be here. If you see all the fans, it’s not for nothing that it’s the People’s Club. The spirit is good and I want to give a little bit better for the team, and show my experience for the team.”
Heitinga insisted that he is relishing the battle to establish himself in the heart of Everton’s defence ahead of Sylvain Distin, who was a last-minute injury withdrawal on Saturday, and Phil Jagielka.
“I’m a professional, and the best one needs to play,” he said. “It’s up to me and the other players to show the manager we are the best and make it harder for him to pick the team.”