Everton manager David Moyes is hopeful a dominant display from Mikel Arteta on the weekend is a sign the Toffees playmaker is back to his best.
The 28-year-old has been at the heart of Everton’s prolonged period in the top reaches of the Premier League over the last few seasons, using his incisive delivery, particularly from set pieces, to set up numerous goals for his team-mates.
It is hardly surprising then, that a downturn in the Basque native’s form has coincided with a season where the Toffees have been particularly inconsistent, struggling to make an impression on the league’s top tier, despite impressing in the FA Cup.
This has been particularly concerning for Moyes after signing Arteta to a five-year contract over the summer.
But the manager believes his star weapon, who he compared favourably with Barcelona gun Andres Iniesta, could be set to fire once more after an impressive display in the 2-0 win over Sunderland last Saturday.
“Mikel’s form’s been a worry because we swam the channel to try and keep him last summer,” Moyes told the Liverpool Echo.
“Obviously Mikel’s form has not been as good as we thought it would be.”
“(But) I think there have been glimmers and signs in the last few weeks that he’s gaining a little bit of confidence.”
Moyes’ observations may be an ominous sign for Championship side Reading, who will travel to Goodison Park on Tuesday night to take on Everton in the fifth round of the FA Cup.
And Arteta himself says there are plenty of reasons for him to produce a big performance against the Royals.
“I didn’t get the chance to play in the (2009) final because I was injured,” the midfielder said of Everton’s heartbreaking loss to Chelsea two years ago.
“(So) Tuesday is a massive game.”
“It is the only chance now we have got to win something, so let’s beat Reading and that will make a big difference to the season.”