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Everton vs Bournemouth: Two out-of-form sides clash at Goodison Park

There hasn’t been many wins between the two sides in recent weeks

AFC Bournemouth v Everton FC - Premier League Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Everton and Evertonians have finally been able to draw breath and reflect on what was a pretty dire festive period as far as football is concerned.

With the matches coming thick and fast we never really had time to fully assess each game. But, crucially, neither did the players and I feel that contributed to the downward spiral as much as fatigue did.

To that end the win against Lincoln was most welcome, even if it failed to address the deficiencies in the side that have seemingly become more glaring over the past few weeks.

But, when you are out of form any sort of victory is important and it was equally crucial the club kept their FA Cup hopes alive. Another third round exit - a fourth in five years - would have been disastrous to morale, particularly amongst an already frustrated fanbase tired of the endless cycle of raised expectations followed by crushing disappointment.

Everton v Lincoln City - Emirates FA Cup Third Round Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

As it is the victory was secured and our Wembley dreams live to fight another day, quite an appropriate metaphor given our fourth round opponent will be Millwall down at The Den (more on that later this month).

Away from matters on the pitch, this week saw the club hold’s its AGM at the Philharmonic Hall. They have been fairly spiky affairs in previous years but this latest event was largely fume free.

There was an acknowledgement that recent results have been poor but there was no sign of any panic from the Goodison hierarchy. In Farhad Moshiri, Marcel Brands and Denise Barrett-Baxendale I believe we are in safe hands and what we have to do is give them the time and patience to rebuild step-by-step.

This is a long-term project and while we all want to win every week but there also has to been an acceptance that there will be some hiccups along the way, particularly in this first year with much of the mess created by Ronald Koeman and Sam Allardyce still to be resolved.

That mess probably won’t be further addressed this month with Brands insistent that the club is unlikely to do much business this January given the lack of value in the market.

I’m ok with this approach, it again fits in with the long-term strategy of the club. The January window is notoriously difficult to find value and we have wasted too much money on below-par signings in recent years as it is.

A striker would be most welcome but I’m sure most fans would rather wait to ensure we get the right man in the summer than the wrong man now.

Winning games, of course, helps the short-term frustration and Sunday represents the ideal opportunity to get a welcome three points on the board.

It is a game Everton should be winning but their recent inconsistencies and crippling weakness from set pieces makes me more nervous than I should.

Like with the Lincoln game it’s more about the result than the performance as they look to dig themselves out of this rut bit by bit.

The opposition

AFC Bournemouth’s campaign to date can be neatly divided into two halves. In the first half of the season the Cherries lost just two of their first 13 games in all competitions. That lifted the club up to sixth in the table - one point off third - as well as progressing through to the Carabao Cup quarter-finals.

Since then, however, the wheels have fallen off. In the subsequent 13 matches they have lost 10, drawn one and won just two, crashing out of both domestic cup competitions and sinking down to 12th in the table.

AFC Bournemouth v Brighton and Hove Albion - FA Cup Third Round Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

That is still a respectable league position for a side of Bournemouth’s standing (this is just their fourth top-flight season remember) and it is refreshing to see Eddie Howe retain the faith of his board despite a dip in form.

Short-termism is rife in the Premier League and it can be a difficult habit to break, as Everton have found over the past three years. That is not something you will find on the south coast, with Howe afforded the time and space to revive the side’s form.

The 41-year-old has done a wonderful job not only to lift the side through the divisions but establish them as a Premier League side. They have finished 16th, ninth and 12th in their three Premier League seasons to date and never really became embroiled in a relegation battle.

That is unlikely to change this season either despite their recent poor form, which hasn’t been helped by a fixture list that saw them play Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United (twice) in the space of 11 matches.

Everton v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Games against Bournemouth have been somewhat eventful since their promotion in 2015. We had the famous 3-3 in November of that year that for me marked the beginning of the end of Roberto Martinez. Two years ago Romelu Lukaku scored four as Everton won 6-3 at Goodison Park. This season’s meeting at the Vitality Stadium saw Everton concede a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2, with Richarlison sent off.

In short, expect goals.

Team news

Everton, remarkably, have no fresh injury concerns meaning Silva has plenty of selection posers.

Lucas Digne is almost certain to return after being rested against Lincoln while Richarlison is also expected to start after coming off the bench last weekend.

Bernard and Ademola Lookman will hope to keep their place after scoring against the Imps.

Projected starting XI

Pickford, Digne, Keane, Zouma, Coleman, Gomes, Gueye, Sigurdsson, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin, Lookman.

Final word

The cynic in me - and probably you - will see a team out-of-form arriving at Goodison and expect Everton to once again be obliging opponents, like we always seem to be in such situations.

But the truth is that anything other than three points will be hugely disappointing and make our task of climbing back into the top seven much harder.

With the tough festive period over there is a feeling that this game represents a fresh start and with no top six side lurking in the fixture list until the end of next month, it’s crucial the post-Christmas recovery starts here.