Evertonians can be forgiven for suffering from a severe case of déjà vu at present.  This time last season, the wheels had begun to fall off for Rafa Benitez’s Everton side.  This season, performances during the final week of Premier League action before the World Cup break bore a worryingly similar resemblance to some of those dished out during the ill-fated spell under the Spaniard.  Surely however, the popularity of Frank Lampard is still immeasurably higher than the ex-Liverpool manager experienced at any point during his short-lived reign.

The ugly scenes at the end of the Bournemouth Premier League match point to a collective patience worn paper thin by the most loyal of Everton supporters.  That group of hardcore Evertonians who travel the length and breadth of the country every other week have witnessed just two victories away from Goodison Park in the last 18 months. 

Accusations, with justification, of a lack of commitment and desire were thrown at some of the players last Saturday.  This is an unforgivable sin in the eyes of most Blues.  Mistakes can be forgiven, but anything less than 100% effort to the cause will not be forgiven.

Contrast the scenes at the Vitality Stadium to those witnessed at Goodison Park at the end of last season.  On the evening of Thursday 19 May, Everton had just produced an astonishing second-half comeback to defeat Crystal Palace 3-2 and secure their Premier League status, with one game to spare.  Frank Lampard climbed to the top of the executive boxes to celebrate with his adoring Everton faithful. 

The connection between players, manager and supporters had not been that strong for what had felt like an eternity.  A connection which Lampard would hope to help him through any inevitable bumps in the road.  Perhaps fortunately for the manager, FIFA’s chequered past means that Lampard can pull Everton in for a much-needed pit stop.,

Frank Lampard and his backroom staff need to use this enforced break in Everton’s Premier League season to decide on a strategy which will utilise the strengths of this transitional squad.  And the nature of this transition should not be forgotten by any Evertonians. 

Whether Lampard was right to make such wholesale changes to his side for the Carabao Cup match against Bournemouth is a valid question; however, what cannot be in dispute is that this Everton squad is still in need of significant improvement.  Most would agree that, until several more of the senior squad are moved on, there is nowhere near enough quality to compete in a league as demanding as the Premier League.

This emphasises the need for Everton to do what they did with some success at the tail end of last season.  Play to the strengths within the squad.  Lampard’s desire to evolve Everton’s style of play into a more progressive, ball-playing side is admirable.  It is perhaps though somewhat naïve. 

The abilities of his favoured midfield pairing of Idrissa Gueye and Amadou Onana do not appear to align with this style of football.  The one midfielder on Everton’s books who does seem capable of this is another new signing, James Garner; however, Lampard seems reluctant to make room for the young arrival from Manchester United in his starting XI.

The midfield area has proved to be a constant conundrum for some time now.  Although most would agree that the options at Lampard’s disposal are infinitely better than his recent predecessors.  Getting the best out of them, though, is surely the job of the manager. 

The best example of this has to be Everton’s recent 3-0 victory over Crystal Palace.  Onana and Gueye played alongside each other as a midfield pair, with Alex Iwobi just in front of them.  This gave the midfield a much stronger look and gave an additional option to the defence when playing out from the back.  In the subsequent matches against Leicester at Goodison and Bournemouth away, Onana appeared to have been pushed further on, leaving Gueye exposed defensively and offensively.

Up until the last week before the mid-season break, Everton had mostly looked solid defensively; it has been with the ball that they have looked the most uncomfortable.  And this is perhaps the most worrying aspect of the make-up of the current squad. 

Everton’s attacking options look massively short of the levels required in this league.  Any team would be worse off without their leading goalscorer, but the funds used from the sale of Richarlison are looking more and more wasteful as the weeks go by.  Perhaps it is too early to judge, but the contributions of Dwight McNeil and Neil Maupay so far are a concern. 

Aside from his brilliant strike in the victory over West Ham Utd in September, Neil Maupay has not looked anything like a Premier League striker.  Dwight McNeil has shown flashes of brilliance but looks likely to join that long list of frustratingly inconsistent Everton wingers.

Along with Dwight McNeil, add to that list Demarai Gray.  If any current Everton player embodies these characteristics, it is surely Gray.  A player with obvious amounts of technical ability, Demarai Gray is unfortunately proving perhaps why Leicester were happy to let him leave. 

At the age of 26, he can no longer be said to possess potential.  As the most experienced of Everton’s wide men, Demarai Gray simply must contribute more to justify his continued selection.

Again, the question then is whether, along with Anthony Gordon, Frank Lampard holds more responsibility for getting the best out of these players.  And indeed, whether any of these players are conventional ‘wingers’. 

The statistics show that these three players, Gordon, Gray and McNeil have contributed zero assists so far this season.  Statistics often do not tell the full story; however, those who watch the Blues regularly will most likely agree that, on this occasion, they do. 

Perhaps then the system is wrong? If the squad contains no attacking players capable of providing assists from wide areas, then why play this way?  Particularly if the focal point of these hopeful crosses, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, is rarely available.

Most would agree this Everton squad, although still short of quality, is collectively much stronger than last season’s.  It is therefore the job of the manager and his coaching staff to get the best out of them.  Questions are now being asked whether this is happening. 

For the first time in his short Everton career, Lampard is under serious scrutiny.  The club can ill afford to change the management team again, and every effort will be made to help Lampard.  He must however grasp this opportunity, as he has alluded to himself, to take stock.  He must consider every option to gain every last drop out of this evolving Everton squad. 

All Evertonians want Frank Lampard to succeed, but he must not fall into the trap of some of his predecessors.  Notably both Marco Silva and Roberto Martinez failed by displaying a level of arrogance, refusing to divert from their preferred methods.  Lampard will be given more time to learn on the job at Everton – but learn he must.





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Reader Comments (13)

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Brendan McLaughlin
1 Posted 20/11/2022 at 21:38:21
Hard to see how the World Cup break including a jolly to Australia will suddenly equip Frank with the wherewithal to pull us comfortably clear of the relegation zone.

I mean if he has the solution would he not have applied it by now?

I'm putting my faith in there being three worse teams again this year as last.

Stu Darlington
2 Posted 20/11/2022 at 22:33:37
A fair analysis of the situation Kevin.
I don’t profess to have the expert knowledge of formations and tactics as some of our ToffeeWeb contributors but Lampards eccentric selections in midfield baffle me,particularly when he seems to have hit on the right formula in the Palace game.
It makes me wonder if he knows what his best team is.The old terrace jibe of “you don’t know what you’re doing” springs to mind.
You’re right about the lack of quality in the squad, and hopefully some of those deficiencies can be addressed in January,because if they are not I think his days will be numbered.
If I’m right about his managerial failings,( and I’ve not seen anything to convince me otherwise so far ),the World Cup break and a jaunt to Australia are not going to change things.
We will find ourselves in another relegation dog fight and more outbreaks of dissatisfaction amongst the faithful and chaos in the club.
I know this is a pretty depressing scenario,but I think we are going to need a Christmas miracle to turn things around!
What I need is Danny to come on and give me the optimistic view!
Dupont Koo
3 Posted 21/11/2022 at 00:24:23
Thank you Kevin.

Frank has been hesitant of moving Iwobi to the "wing", a la the role that Arteta & Peanuts used to play for us (they weren't speed-burning, fleet-footed wingers, were they? But they were ultra effective operating out of the wings), probably because Iwobi had been too influential in the centre of the pitch.

But the sample size so far this season should be big enough to show that, as of this moment, both Gordon & Gray don't have the necessary Champions-League level Football IQ & Decision-Making to play what Frank wants in a free-flowing attack (Gordon still has room to grow but Gray might have already plateaued and would not improve any further).

Moving Iwobi to be the "Arteta" or "Peanuts" (in place of Gray: we need Gordon's youthful exuberance), and getting Garner into the Starting XI might have compromised a bit on the Pace department, but that would improve dramatically on the Football IQ, Vision, Passing & ball-keeping ability in the Final Third.

Fingers crossed that Garner can fight his way into the Starting XI soon.

Christine Foster
4 Posted 21/11/2022 at 07:09:15
Since the departure of the one who cannot be spoken of, and latterly the Colombian, we have not seen anything or anybody of a creative natuer in midfield. Even Iwobi – in my eyes, a make-do creative player – is far short of the quality of James despite his engine.

Gana and Onana can only work with a creative player in front of them; neither has the legs nor the creativity or quality to drive forward as a threat.

To me, Lampard had one immediate objective in the pairing: stop the rot and prevent goals. To a great extent, it has worked… but neither of them has an engine to go box-to-box. The only current midfielder who has is Iwobi. Not sure Garner can fill the creative hole we have… because – until it is adequately filled – we will be playing in our own half all season long.

Then there is the matter of Gray and Gordon. Neither at the moment deserve their place. And before anyone sounds off about Gordon, I watched again his appalling performance against Fulham where Antonee Robinson had a field day because Gordon never tracked back, not once. He just let him go.. and ambled back. Utterly unforgivable.

This season, he has been poor; I said it before: Is his heart or head still in Everton? Because it doesn't look like it.

Gray…flashes of incontinence. His consistency, disappeared with whatever confidence he had. His dead-balls are so poor, I despair everytime he goes to take a corner. His one trick appears to be to cut inside and shoot. Everyone in the team and opposition know it.

Maupay… he is only viable playing off a target man, not as a lone striker.

So.. now that I have character assassinated of half the team, what can be made of them? Replace with Mills, Cannon, Price et al?

The time has come for new tactics with new faces, our first team has too many players just not good enough or not performing. Half a squad, yes, better than last season? Yes, but the results don't show it; the style of play when we go high-energy is far better than when we sit back.

Is that a tactic or is that because players are not good enough?

Watching against Celtic was the same story with different individuals. We gave the ball away everywhere on the field. No structure other than get behind the ball and park the bus.

Back to my original point… no matter what the tactics are, a lack of quality and creativity in midfield is killing us, the ball comes back faster than an Indian curry and a pint of lager!

Phase 2 of the plan: Buy a creative midfielder and another target man.

Gary Johnson
5 Posted 21/11/2022 at 07:28:24
“Most would agree this Everton squad, although still short of quality, is collectively much stronger than last season”

It's this nonsense that will take us down.

We have less points than at this stage last season, have created significantly less chances, and have regularly conceded 20+ shots each game. We are leaking goals and scoring none.

I just don't get why people think we have improved?? Is it just the hatred of Keane, Holgate and Davies that gives the impression?

We've built Tarkowski and Coady up into the next Degsy and the Rat somehow. Neither would get in a Top 8 team. I just don't get this view.

Danny O’Neill
6 Posted 21/11/2022 at 08:37:32
I'd agree with a lot of that Christine. Priority was the defence.

We still need better players; I don't think anyone is doubting that. Ancelotti needed better players. Lampard does. I feel slightly dirty saying it but maybe Benitez could have done a job with better players.

It's not about one person, but the revolving door of managers is hiding from the obvious. The running, governance and mismanagement of the club over decades. But we keep blaming the manager.

Onana is going to need time and we need to find creativity and have forward runners.

Gray needs to find consistency and stop trying to win the game on his own. Gordon similarly although he has scored 3 goals with intelligent central runs onto a direct ball.

Gary, I don't recall anyone comparing Tarkowski and Coady to Ratcliffe and Mountfield, but buy and large we are a lot more solid and difficult to beat and have 2 very promising young full backs. Even though only a friendly, I thought Holgate showed how could he can be. Just find consistency. And we still have Godfrey to come back. Even though I like him, I've given up on Mina.

Next step, hopefully in January, is to continue to address other areas of the pitch.

Perfect? Far from it. But until those Bournemouth matches we had to endure, it has been better at the back.

Season ends in May. Hopefully the club will act in January.

Dave Abrahams
7 Posted 21/11/2022 at 09:51:14
Christine (4),

That midfield area is certainly where we are missing the key to closing the big gap in our play You don't need a genius to lead the other players, midfield and the rest of the team.

Everton certainly played better and didn't look as open to the opposition attacks, IMO, when Delph was running the midfield and most players were looking to give him the ball and letting him dictate the play. Unfortunately he never played a lot nor was he able to last most games.

What we can all agree on is that Delph wasn't a genius of a player but he had plenty of football nous and knew how to use it, Allan did too but his legs had gone a couple of years before he arrived at Everton.

So, if Mr Thelwell can find a player similar to Delph, then he might help us through this very tough time until Garner is ready and Onana comes out of that trance he seems to be in most of the time. Then, we will get on with this season without too much worry... Mind you, Mr Thelwell, keep your eye out for a reliable manager as well!!

Laurie Hartley
8 Posted 21/11/2022 at 10:10:45
I think Kevin has it in a nutshell in his last paragraph. With due respect to all posters, I just don't think we can buy our way out of our current situation – certainly not in January.

Yes, a midfield general and a top target man will make a huge difference to this squad because I believe we have some good players. But, until such time as we can acquire both, we have to play the cards we hold. That for me means changing tactics.

Apart from our complete inability to match Celtic in midfield there was one moment in the first half that said it all for me. Someone launched it to Maupay who was standing about 5 metres inside their half. The Celtic centre-half lent (as opposed to jumped) over Maupay and headed it to a team mate. Absolutely exasperating!

That was compounded by the fact that he subbed Maupay for Cannon on 75 minutes – instead of putting Cannon on with Maupay. That is exactly what he did at Newcastle when we were chasing the game – he subbed Maupay for Calvert-Lewin instead of putting him on to support Maupay.

If this was, as someone put it, “a meaningless friendly”, why, oh why, didn't he go two up top? If ever he had a chance to try it, this was the game. I just don't get it.

Eddie Dunn
9 Posted 21/11/2022 at 11:09:39
Laurie- that is what is so exasperating about Lampard. Apart from his dogmatic set-up, he never changes the shape during the game, it is almost always like-for-like.
I was informed by a club insider a few weeks ago, that the buzzword at Finch Farm was "triangles" "everything is about triangles". There is an agenda, a theory from the great think-tank of Lampard, Cole, Clement et al and it is. triangles.
I wish the whole coaching team would go on a jolly to Bermuda.
Alan J Thompson
10 Posted 21/11/2022 at 11:26:26
Strewth! What hope can we hang on to when a one paragraph description of a player contains the words incontinence and dead balls and then intimates that we have little up front.
Stu Darlington
11 Posted 21/11/2022 at 12:51:22
Laurie & Eddie,

You successfully put into words my concerns about Lampard's deficiencies as a manager.

Put this together with Christine's comments about the seeming inability of professional footballers to take an effective corner or complete simple passes, then something is seriously wrong.

Christine also points out we are much more effective as a team when we play with pace and energy than we are when we sit back. We all know she is right… why can't the manager see that?

Similarly with Laurie's point about playing two up top, and Eddie's like-for-like changes and seeming reluctance to change the shape when Plan A is struggling.

It's very worrying when we can all see it but the manager seemingly cannot, Let's hope it's because he knows something we don't.

Jerome Shields
12 Posted 22/11/2022 at 14:56:01
I agree that midfield needs more structure and both McNeil and Gray being skilled players are short of the capable consistent competence necessary for their positions. They are not strong players.

As for Gordon, I think the negotiations of his new contract have had an adverse effect on application and play.

Mike Gaynes
13 Posted 22/11/2022 at 23:01:27
Alan J #10, nicely played. Such a young player shouldn't yet be suffering from any of those problems.

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