Happy New Year!
I’m guessing most Toffees fans will be grateful to see the back of 2018; another turbulent year of inconsistency and disappointment.
The defeat at Brighton was perhaps a fitting way to end the year, the type of meek sloppy defeat we have become used to over the past 12 months.
December turned out to be a pretty rotten month for Everton when it promised so much. We headed across Stanley Park with a spring in our step and a sense of growing momentum.
But the crushing defeat knocked the team for six and they have yet to truly recover. The win over Burnley suggested a corner had been turned but the energy sapping Christmas schedule has exposed the weakness of the squad ( though it is again worth pointing out that Everton have had the toughest run of festive fixtures, in terms of recovery time between games).
Just one more game to go and the players can have a rest of sorts, with a number of players likely to sit out the FA Cup tie with Lincoln.
Questions still remain about certain members of the squad, but even someone of Marcel Brands’ talents is unable to rectify so many issues in one transfer window.
Silva also has to reflect on the mistakes he has made in the past few weeks. Thankfully the ‘Silva out’ shouts are still restricted to a few reactionaries on social media, as most Toffees fans recognise the need for patience as the club look to right the wrongs of recent years
That means the disappointments of the past few weeks should not be allowed to cloud the progress made in the early few months of the season, with the team’s style of play vastly improved from what we were served up last campaign.
As mentioned in earlier previews, the past month has perhaps forced us all to reset and lower expectations , with stability the key word right now.
Leicester are one of a handful of teams likely to challenge Everton for the ‘best-of-the-rest’ position just outside the top six.
That they are able to challenge at all is testament to the squad’s resilience and character after the terrible tragedy that befell the club in October.
The King Power helicopter tragedy cast a shadow over the game. And although the club understandably acted with dignity and class in the aftermath, it is likely to take a long time for them to truly recover.
On the pitch Claude Puel’s side picked up memorable back-to-back results against Chelsea and Manchester City over the festive period, only to lose at home to Cardiff on Saturday.
Puel admitted his side were tired in that game and with such a short recovery time ahead of their trip to Goodison, that is unlikely to change.
The result will be two sides who are throughly worn out, which is likely to impact on the quality of the game.
Richarlison is expected to be fit despite picking up a knock against Brighton. Ademola Lookman, who has missed the last three matches with an ankle problem, will again be assessed.
The reverse fixture was probably Everton’s best performance and result of the campaign so far, with Gylfi Sigurdsson’s spectacular winner a candidate for goal of the season.
A repeat performance at Goodison would be most welcome, though I suspect given the timing of the fixture it will be an attritional affair played in front of a crowd still nursing a new year’s hangover.