Everton, fresh from their encouraging 1-1 draw with Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday take on Brighton & Hove Albion on Tuesday evening at Goodison Park in both their first Premier League fixtures of 2023.
It was a temporary respite for Lampard and his men as they came away from Manchester with a huge and unlikely point to their name, whilst Roberto De Zerbi’s team succumbed to the continued dominance of table-toppers Arsenal, despite a late rally, losing 4-2 on home turf.
It proved a happy ending for the Toffees in what’s been a difficult and testing 2022, taking a priceless point from a Manchester City side desperately looking to close the gap on Premier League leaders Arsenal.
Alternatively, results from sides in around them in the table went their way too which will certainly give the club a lift as they aim to create some separation from yet another engrossing and frustrating relegation battle.
Demarai Gray’s 64th-minute wonder strike – their first effort of the game – was enough for Everton to leave Guardiola ruing a missed opportunity in their struggling championship assault. However, that result will count for nothing if the Toffees fail to build on that result with a much needed win on Tuesday night.
Their home form so far this campaign leaves a lot to be desired, however, as they come up against one of the league’s best sides on the road. The Toffees have picked up just eight points at home this season. Only Southampton (6) have picked up fewer.
The Toffees sit 16th in the Premier League table, a point in front of Nottingham Forest in 18th, and nine points from an opponent who put up a good fight against league leaders Arsenal themselves on New Year’s Eve, but their two goals in the second half wasn’t enough to avoid a 4-2 defeat.
However, the second-half was indeed promising from the Seagulls though, considering the notable absences to key players such as Danny Welbeck, Moises Caicedo and Alexis Mac Allister.
While their defensive stability has obviously suffered under Roberto De Zerbi’s tactical imprint, the former recurring issue of a lack of goals which they had under Graham Potter has certainly disappeared. Brighton still remains one of the league’s entertainers and De Zerbi will certainly be encouraged by the impact of Evan Ferguson who came on in the second-half against the Gunners and became the club’s youngest scorer in the English top flight notching their second goal.
Players who have struggled for goals in recent seasons are starting to find form in front of goal this campaign, and that’s down to De Zerbi’s ideas. Pascal Gross, Adam Lallana and Mac Allister have either matched or bettered their tally from the last term already, while Leandro Trossard is one goal away from beating his own tally last season and also becoming the club’s joint top-scorer in the Premier League, level with Neal Maupay and Glen Murray (25).
In fact, the Belgian has fond memories on Merseyside, netting a tremendous hattrick at Anfield in De Zerbi’s first game in charge of the Seagulls back in October.
And the omens look good for Brighton ahead of this fixture, as they won the last fixture picked up a 3-2 win and also have picked up the most points (13) on the road amongst clubs outside the European spots.
WHERE & WHEN?
Venue: Goodison Park.
Date: Tuesday, 3rd January 2023.
Time: 19:45 PM.
Referee: Andre Marriner.
Assistant referee: Simon Long, Natalie Aspinall.
Fourth official: David Webb.
VAR: Michael Oliver.
Assistant VAR: Eddie Smart.
The Toffees are suffering from one notable absentee for this game, as they will be without one of their key performers in Amadou Onana after the Belgian international picked up his fifth booking of the season at Man City.
Danny Welbeck and Adam Webster missed Brighton’s defeat to Arsenal, and while the former is closer to a return, both are very unlikely to feature at Goodison Park on Tuesday.
Mac Allister is back in Brighton following his World Cup success with Argentina and could well be involved, given many of his fellow teammates have returned to action in the past week.
Just eight points picked up on home turf so far this campaign is indeed a poor return by Lampard’s men. And if a team is indeed intent on steering clear of the bottom of the table, picking up points on their own patch are a crucial commodity, especially in the Premier League.
However, the Toffees just simply haven’t had much joy in front of their own fans. But hopefully, they can build on their performance against Manchester City. Coming away from the Etihad with any point at all is something to savour, and the Toffees achieved just that. Though, as stated previously, that point will mean nothing at all if Everton don’t come away with three points and a good performance against Brighton on Tuesday evening.
Once again, if they are to achieve that, Lampard will need his key men to perform once again. Ben Godfrey was superb alongside his defensive partners Conor Coady and James Tarkowski in stifling arguably the Premier League’s most ruthless goalscorer in Erling Haaland, even riling him up on a few occasions.
It’s unclear whether the former Derby County and Chelsea boss will stick to the 5-3-2 formation which worked so well at the Etihad or revert to a more offensive 4-5-1 against similar opponents. The suspension of Amadou Onana is indeed a huge blow for the Toffees, considering the Belgian’s industry and aggression in midfield. Lampard has the decision to make as to which of Abdoulaye Doucoure or Tom Davies will line up alongside Idrissa Gueye who impressed against Man City, and make up the three-man midfield also involving Alex Iwobi. Lampard will also be hoping Demarai Gray kicks on from his heroics in Manchester.
For Brighton, De Zerbi will surely be boosted by the return of his Ecuadorian midfield warrior in Moises Caicedo who was crucially missed against the Gunners on Saturday, because of suspension. Had the 21-year-old been on the field of play, it could well have been a different result as Caicedo is indeed pivotal to how Brighton defender against the ball. Also, the Seagulls will be praying Alexis Mac Allister is ready to return from his heroics at the World Cup with Argentina.
Mac Allister and Caicedo have formed one of the best midfield partnerships in the league this season, mixing creativity and composure with robustness and dynamism that has somewhat made the Seagulls one of the most attractive and entertaining propositions in the division so far this campaign. Billy Gilmour deputised for the duo brilliantly against Arsenal, although providing De Zerbi’s regular midfield duo are fit and firing, they would be certainties to start against Everton. And what about Evan Ferguson who put in an impressive brief goalscoring cameo against the Gunners? Brighton do indeed need a striking presence in the penalty box, and the Irish wonderkid looks ready to take on the challenge if called upon.
It’s like every year Demarai Gray is on the end of a goal of a season contender, and his latest strike against Manchester City was an absolute rocket. To get such power, accuracy and trajectory right into the top corner of the net after a little trip up before the strike just goes to show the talents Gray holds in his weaponry.
However, despite all that, Gray is indeed a frustrating talent. All too often, the former Birmingham City academy product drifts out of games, or has a spell of games in the first XI without making any telling contributions. His goal against the Premier League champions was his first league strike since August – a 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest on the third weekend of the campaign.
In fact, he’s only registered four all campaign so far and no assists. For a player of his tremendous gifts and his standing in Lampard’s side as one of the club’s key and most experienced attackers, he simply doesn’t contribute enough. It was the same issue he had at Leicester City, and Brendan Rodgers deemed him surplus to requirements and cashing in as a result. It’s clear, for Everton to get out of this current rut their in, the Toffees need Gray in his best form. Can he rediscover it and maintain it in this new calendar year? Like many of Lampard’s current crop of players, 2023 could well make or break him.
ALEXIS MAC ALLISTER
Brighton & Hove Albion have undergone a stunning 2022. Achieving their best-ever top-flight league finish of ninth last season, and have continued that wholesome trajectory, currently sitting in the same position as they prepare for their first game of 2023.
Much of that success has been down to a few players in their squad, but none more so than World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister who is now firmly and deservedly attracting much interest from several top clubs around the continent. The 24-year-old was indeed one of Argentina’s star performers throughout their success, and to think he wasn’t even a starter in the side before the tournament.
But his form at the Amex Stadium before then has simply been too good to ignore. So far this campaign, he’s registered five goals but has more crucially excelled in a new deep-lying midfield role under De Zerbi becoming such a metronomic and influential figure with and without the ball in the former Shakhtar Donetsk boss’ possession-heavy system.
Before the league restart, only Declan Rice and Rodri won back possession in the middle third of the pitch on more occasions than Mac Allister (68) in the Premier League and the Argentine ranked fifth in the division for tackles won (27). He also recorded the sixth most passes in the top flight (738), and has also caught the eye in metrics typical of his newly-found deeper role – recording on average 3.1 tackles – the joint ninth-most in the division – 1.4 interceptions and winning 5.8 duels – at a success rate of 59% – as well as enjoying on average 72.9 touches, performing 2.2 long balls and completing 51.1 passes – at a success rate of 89% – per fixture.
It’s evidently clear Brighton need him back from his World Cup celebrations, and De Zerbi knows as much because Mac Allister is the foundation for which this impressive Brighton side have staked their claim as one of the Premier League’s most likeable and exciting football teams.
Everton predicted XI vs Brighton: Pickford (GK); Patterson, Godfrey, Coady, Tarkowski, Mykolenko; Doucoure, Gueye, Iwobi; Gray, Calvert-Lewin.
Brighton predicted XI vs Everton: Sanchez (GK); Lamptey, Dunk, Colwill, Estupinan; Caicedo, Gross; March, Lallana, Mitoma; Trossard.