The 32-year-old has been an ever-present under Mark Hughes so far this season - but with Jermaine Pennant and new signings Oussama Assaidi and Marko Arnautovic all pushing for places, Etherington is happy with the healthy rivalry.
"I'm not going to be here for the rest of my life, so the competition is good because it does keep you on your toes," he told the Sentinel.
"To start the first four games shows the manager trusts me, but I know that to stay in the team my performances have to be high to make sure the manager picks me.
"We've got two or three players in every position now and they are top-quality players. This must be the best squad we've had since I've been here and there's some good players who can play in my position."
Etherington also has his eyes on this weekend's trip to Arsenal as Stoke go in search of their first point at the Emirates.
"It would be a massive result if we got one, but we are capable of doing it," said Etherington.
"We will give Arsenal the respect they deserve, but our confidence is high after the way we have played this season and we feel we can get a result
"We have got to have a go - and I'm sure that's what the manager will want us to do.
"It's a case of finding the right mix of being solid, working hard and not being too open, but also having a threat going the other way and not being backs to-the-wall, which is what we have done in the past.
"Against top teams you have to be strong and solid, otherwise they will destroy you, but you also have to have a go.
"A lot of them have good attacking players, but they can also be vulnerable at the back."