Everton will look to build on their battling draw against Manchester City when they kick-off 2023 against Brighton at Goodison Park.
The Toffees proved the doubters (myself included) wrong with that feisty performance at the Etihad. I won’t lie, I would have considered a narrow defeat as a decent result before the game, so this is definitely considered bonus point in my book. The miserable defeat at home to Wolves had left us fearing the worst, but the players showed they are still willing to fight for their manager.
Goalscoring and creativity remains a problem - Demarai Gray cannot score rockets every week - but the very least we expect is a bit of spirit and fight, which we saw by the bucket load in east Manchester, not least from Ben Godfrey, who managed to reduce Erling Haaland into a petulant child.
The key now of course is to build on that with three points against the Seagulls, the first of two crucial home games this month, with Southampton to follow in a couple of weeks.
Frank Lampard has spoken about how the Goodison atmosphere will be crucial. I agree, it can be the metaphorical ‘12th man’, but it is the players who have to get the fans going first by displaying the same commitment that we saw on Saturday.
It has been a rollercoaster festive period having been on the floor after Wolves but encouraged after Man City. Three points here and there may even be a bit of optimism creeping in among Toffees fans.
I don’t think it is too far-fetched to say that Brighton are one of - if not the - best run club in the Premier League. Everyone from the board down is pulling in the right direction, with a clear plan in terms of recruitment and style of play. Everton would do well to watch and learn.
It meant they didn’t panic when manager Graham Potter left for Chelsea in September, with Roberto De Zerbi swiftly appointed in his place. Or when Marc Cucurella left for the same club for around £62m a year after joining for a fraction of that price.
They are now an established Premier League team with a healthy balance sheet and onward momentum.
They head north in 10th place and will move to within a point of the top six with a win. They have a poor recent record at Goodison, losing four out of the last five, though they did win there last season. They are also bidding to win three successive Premier League away games for the first time.
Everton meanwhile could become the first club to record 500 top-flight home defeats. Is there a more Everton stat than that?
Everton 2-3 Brighton, January 2 2022
The two sides met at Goodison exactly a year and one day ago, with Brighton coming away with all three points despite two goals from Anthony Gordon.
Anthony Gordon and Yerry Mina will be assessed after missing the draw at City through illness. Michael Keane is also a doubt after missing the game with a knee problem.
Amadou Onana will definitely miss the game through suspension, but Ellis Simms could feature after he was recalled from his loan at Sunderland
What they said
Everton manager Frank Lampard: “We need to understand in the last two, three, four games that we haven’t got the points we wanted. Against City we did and now we want to go out and be really hungry for points.
“I hope everyone coming to Goodison on Tuesday see players who are hungry, relate to that and gets the crowd going.
“We know what it can be like on an evening game at Goodison and then hopefully we can have a good game.
“It’s a very good team in Brighton, we have to be very ready. Good possession team, will have possession. We have to trust in ourselves and believe like we did today.”
Momentum is so important in football and Everton need to make the most of what they gained following that draw at the Etihad. Lose and we are back in crisis mode again, win and mid-table is suddenly in sight, meaning we can all rest slightly easier.