EVERTON’S rejuvenated strikeforce must be at their best against Norwich to fire the Blues to a fourth consecutive win, says Phil Jagielka.
The Toffees have kept clean sheets and triumphed by two goals in their last three fixtures, as Nikica Jelavic and Tim Cahill have forged a promising partnership in attack.
But Jagielka, 29, insists that chances will be at a premium at Carrow Road on Saturday, with former Everton goalkeeping understudy John Ruddy in impressive form for the Canaries since their return to the Premier League.
He said: “A lot of bookies and others might have expected them to struggle but they’ve been flying. Their defensive record speaks for itself. They’ve conceded a few goals over the course of the season as everyone does, but nobody has had an easy game against them.
“They will attack you – they often play two up front – but he’s got them well drilled and they haven’t been turned over.
“Grant Holt has scored some important goals while John (Ruddy) has done very well.”
Ruddy, 25, moved to Goodison in the summer of 2005 for £250,000 but only made one appearance before being loaned out and eventually sold to Norwich in 2010.
But the 6ft 4in keeper has already appeared 75 times for Paul Lambert’s side, and Jagielka insists he will be tough to beat.
“When John was here there was never an issue over whether he was a good goalkeeper,” he said. “He stopped shots and did the rest really well.
“But he had very good goalkeepers in front of him, and sometimes when you do play a team where you're going to be busy in goal it’s easier to keep your concentration.
“If you speak to managers, they’ll say the best keepers aren’t those that make 10 great saves in a game, it’s the ones who make one or two.
“Man U have been through quite a lot of goalkeepers because they’ve bought guys who are good shot stoppers, but haven’t maybe saved the key ones in games.
“John had to go out and play a lot of first team football to realise his potential. Now his concentration has got a lot better. In goalkeeping terms he was a baby here, and he’s still a young man but he’s grown into it. His kicking is great, he’s a big boy and he has always been a good shot stopper.”
Jagielka hopes to retain his place in the team after helping the Blues record clean sheets against Swansea, and West Brom, but David Moyes admits he is currently blessed with options in central defence.
The Blues boss said: “We’ve never been in a situation where rotation has needed to be done because we’ve never really had a backlog of fixtures.
“But we have had for three weeks. Now I have got three centre-halves who are playing very well. I’ve got one who plays for Holland who are ranked number two in the world, I’ve got one who plays for England and I’ve got Sylvain Distin who has been fantastic and gives us a natural left footer so I’ve got real good competition with the form they’re in.
“If people are playing well I will let them continue and keep the jersey.
“I think the situation with Distin is age, and Johnny (Heitinga) has not trained quite a lot with a toe niggle so it has made it easy to rotate them round. I will use them at the right times. Last week Jagielka came in and he was top notch. He’s not got to accept it, he’s just one of three who we are using. His form, his play was really good and I’ve got no problem, I speak to him regularly. Jags has been really good for us.”