Sublime Mikel Arteta leaves Everton wondering what might have been

Sir Bobby Robson used to call them "blue‑chip players".

Sublime Mikel Arteta leaves Everton wondering what might have been They are the special talents blessed with the ability to not only win matches virtually single-handed but raise the game of assorted team-mates.

As Newcastle United's Steven Taylor can testify, Mikel Arteta is most definitely "blue chip". Quite apart from destroying Alan Pardew's right-back for the day, Arteta used his station wide on the left as a platform from which to dictate the bulk of Everton's attacking play.

The Spaniard's shimmy-suffused promptings brought the best out of an impressive Leon Osman, leaving Pardew ruing the injuries which have sidelined his own catalytic individuals, Hatem Ben Arfa and Stephen Ireland.

Newcastle were also without Joey Barton on the right side of midfield and it would have been fascinating to see how Arteta might have fared had Barton been around to assist Taylor rather than Danny Simpson.

Despite such handicaps, Pardew's side scored first, the rapidly improving Leon Best benefiting from the fallout following a free-kick to head his sixth goal in 10 games.

Arteta ensured that lead lasted a mere eight minutes. A slick, defence bewildering one-two saw him use the outside of his right boot to clip a return cross that Osman swept beyond Steve Harper.

Shortly afterwards Arteta won a free-kick on the edge of the area. A well-rehearsed set piece saw the ball curved in fiendishly by Leighton Baines before dropping for Phil Jagielka to half-volley home at the far post.

Although Best would see a second-half "equaliser" disallowed for a push on Jagielka, Everton deserved a win which, apart from partly atoning for an FA Cup exit to Reading last week, provoked puzzlement at their under-achievement for much of this campaign.

David Moyes is presumably so fed up with attempting to explain it that he delegated media duties to his assistant Steve Round yet Newcastle, too, harbour a growing frustration.

They have not won a home Premier League game which kicks off at 3pm on a Saturday since August 2008. "We've got to get that monkey off our back," Harper said. "It's an incredible statistic and the longer it goes on the more people are going talk about it. We need to put it to bed."

Some people nursing a cheekbone fracture as nasty as Shola Ameobi's would have opted for prolonged rest but the Newcastle striker, freshly returned from the fitting of a facial mask in the United States, ruffled Jagielka and company after coming on as a substitute.

"It was incredibly brave of Shola," Harper said. "It's a massive credit to him, it was a really fantastic thing to put himself on the line like that. The damage he suffered to his cheekbone was really bad so it's been a real effort. I didn't tell him he was crazy though; he's a local lad and he knows what it means to play for this club."

If Arteta's extreme skill and Ameobi's sheer guts proved the afternoon's overriding themes it also contained the aggression encapsulated by the midfield clash between a struggling Cheik Tioté and the Everton substitute John Heitinga.

Then there was the antipathy between another visiting substitute, Victor Anichebe and Kevin Nolan. At one point that feuding pair had to be separated by Howard Webb before receiving a booking apiece.

More positively, St James' found itself treated to an unexpectedly encouraging cameo from the young left-back Shane Ferguson, who stepped off the bench to accomplished effect in the second half.

While Ferguson's time in the sun is still to come, this was a day when, courtesy of Arteta's contribution, Everton glimpsed a patch of blue sky through the clouds shrouding their season.

Man of the match Mikel Arteta (Everton)

Powered by article was written by Louise Taylor at St James' Park, for The Guardian on Monday 7th March 2011 07.00 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

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