So, after the World Cup break, giving Frank Lampard the time to have a good think, consult with all his coaches, and implement his reset, the result is 3 defeats and a draw, 2 defeats at home and we have dropped into the Bottom 3.
Lampard's record for us is terrible and he should be gone. He can't get the team to win and, if Everton got relegated, I doubt he would bring us back up. 
We have all been blinded by how he united the club when he arrived and the fact that we stayed up last season. The truth is anyone would have found it easy to unite the club after the Benitez fiasco and he made hard work of keeping us up.
We should have thanked him in the summer for his efforts and said our goodbyes then.
What amazes me, though, is that he has so many resources at his disposal. All the coaches to chew things over with, all the players and ex-players, managers he has played under, football friends and experts, even his dad, a very notable player. All the experience in the world to help him and yet no-one can give him the one bit of advice he needs, or so it appears…
Strengthen the midfield.
The 4-3-3 system isn't working properly so his conclusion is to completely change the system to 5-3-2 (or 3-5-2 in some people's eyes). Sure, we got a creditable draw at Manchester City but we did ride our luck and on another day...
Already there have been ridiculous suggestions on who could be used as wingbacks and it frightens me to death.
Didn't anyone advise him to simply adjust the 4-3-3 to enable it to work more efficiently by adding a midfielder and withdrawing one of the ineffective forwards? The simple and sensible thing to do. No changes needed to the back 4, just make the one change, a midfielder for a striker. Nothing the players have to work on too much and nothing that will disrupt what the players have been working on for months.
The obvious problem with Lampard's 4-3-3 system (acknowledging that, without a fit Dominic Calvert-Lewin, we need to sign a forward) is obvious. It results in a weak midfield that gives our opponents far too much space to play in and lets them run right through us, exposing our defence far too often.
With the simple change of putting another midfielder in at the expense of a forward, this problem can be addressed. And against the very tough opponents, a wide forward like Anthony Gordon can be pulled back into midfield also to protect the right-back in a 4-5-1 formation which will make it very difficult for any team to play against us.
The 5-3-2 formation does not do this. The midfield still lacks numbers. Once the team is pushed back, the formation is not 3-5-2, it is 5-3-2 and the full-backs or wingbacks have no-one in front of them protecting them. With 4-4-2, there are two banks of 4 with cover for everyone.
We have never had a good run of form using the 5-3-2 system, ever. With the 4-4-2 system, transitioning to 4-5-1, we went half a season unbeaten under Martinez and we finished 4th using the 4-5-1 system under Moyes.
In this age of stats, if people took the time to look over the history of Everton playing 5-3-2, they would see a system that has never worked for us. We have not won a game this season using it and the only time it has helped was towards the end of last season when Iwobi paired up with Coleman a bit, but even then we only played 2 central defenders.
The mad thing is 4-4-2 / 4-5-1 can do anything the 5-3-2 system can do without wasting a player by having 3 central defenders (no team should need 3 central defenders). If you are on the ascendancy, 4-4-2 becomes 2-4-4 or 4-2-4 or even 2-2-6. Same principle with 4-5-1.
Everything on a football pitch is a moving thing but you need to have the right players on the pitch and playing 3 forwards instead of an extra centre midfielder partnering Idrissa Gueye is the problem. We need at least one more midfielder instead of a forward.
All our best times since the 1980s have been when we were using the 4-4-2 / 4-5-1 system; 5-3-2 does not address our main problem, the weak midfield.
We apparently don't have much money to spend so we should not get side-tracked by signings we probably don't need, like we did in the summer. There are two essential signings we have to make: We must sign a hard-working forward who can score and we must sign a midfield general to help Gueye.
When Joe Royle took over from Mike Walker, we were in a very similar situation as today. We couldn't get a win and the midfield just wasn't strong enough. Joe Royle immediately addressed the team's main problem.  He strengthened the midfield immediately. By strengthening the midfield, he helped the forward line to function properly too and we immediately started winning games.
I just wish Joe Royle could have a word with Frank Lampard right now and point out what is blindingly obvious to me. My Everton mate identified this problem early on in the season too and, like I said at the start, I find it unbelievable that no-one has pointed this out to Lampard.
And Joe Royle needs to get a message through to Farhad Moshiri, Bill Kenwright and most embarrassingly Graeme Sharp because, when the board get rid of Lampard, we don't want the next manager to carry on with these two dud formations of 4-3-3 and 5-3-2, which is exactly what Lampard did after Benitez.
You can have the best owner, the best chairman, the best football director, the best ground, but it all falls down if your team manager is getting it wrong. And Lampard is getting it wrong.
Strengthen the bloody midfield. It's obvious!
Have a word, Joe... for Everton's Sake!!!
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Jim Lloyd
1 Posted 11/01/2023 at 20:35:06

Sorry I didn't respond the other day. I will do though when I find your post again. I'm not too hot on systems, probably stuck in the old 2-3-5 days. But funnily enough, I was thinking about Joe Royle the other day.

What I do think, is that a good manager will make the best of what he's got and try and get replacements in for the weakest areas of the team. It seems to me that, at the minute, unless we get another goalscorer in, Gray is our best bet as a goalscorer. Now how we fit round him doing that role is where Joe might come in.

It's making the team "a team" if that doesn't sound too mad; but we definitely need to be putting more pressure on the opposition, while at the same time, ensuring that the midfield protect the defence, while at the same time creating attacking opportunities to the likes of Gray and Gordon. They're our two fastest players by far and both can score if given support.

It's a shame that Andros Townsend is out, as he and Gray were two of our best players, along with Richarlison when they came into the team. I'd like to see Ellis Simms take a more active part as well; he can score and did well at Sunderland.

It's where needs must, mate. If we can't bring anyone in, then we'll have to make do and mend and stop the rot first. And perhaps Maupay can play a more effective role in a more joined-up team. There's other young lads who might just do a job for us as well.

You'll remember as well, if not better than me, Joe Royle had a mixture of guile and skill in his midfield that won us the FA Cup and near got us into Europe. I think it's a good idea, Jim, and don't think it'd do Lampard any harm to have a few long talks with Joe Royle.

Dennis Stevens
2 Posted 11/01/2023 at 21:12:30
Isn't Joe Royle a Director at Oldham Athletic now?

If so, he's probably got his hands full advising Unsworth.

Jim Wilson
3 Posted 11/01/2023 at 21:32:13
You talk a lot of sense, Jim @ 1.

All the variations of systems is the modern way but the tried and trusted one is the 4-4-2 or 4-5-1 and these ensure a strong midfield which is what we don't have at the moment.

It is all about a balanced team and I am sure the players are good enough to get us to mid-table playing a sensible system.

Joe Royle turned a team of no hopers into a cup-winning team almost overnight with his 'Dogs of War' midfield. Individually none of that midfield were great players but together they were very effective.

We need a midfield that will get the best out of Gray and Gordon for sure. I would definitely be using Simms too but here's hoping Calvert-Lewin remains fit.

Jim Wilson
4 Posted 11/01/2023 at 21:41:50
Dennis - Unsworth couldn't have a better advisor!
Tony Abrahams
5 Posted 11/01/2023 at 21:59:23
I have been thinking since the Brighton game that I hope Carlo Ancellotti has had the good grace to get hold of Frank Lampard to tell him how he managed to get most of his points at Everton even though he had a lot more craft in his squad.

I hope Carlo has told him to keep eleven men behind the ball, stay close together, close the space between the lines, and then look to hit teams on the break – or maybe even score from a set-piece, Frank!

Seriously Frank, if you don't do this, you will be watching somebody else leading Everton, to safety, using these tactics, so maybe it's best you do it yourself.

Jim Wilson
6 Posted 11/01/2023 at 22:24:43
Tony - that is great advice from you. I don't think Carlo could do any better!
Jim Lloyd
7 Posted 11/01/2023 at 22:39:31
Sounds good to me, Tony, play more as a team, stay closer together, don't be like Iwobi and leg off after the ball without thinking of your teammates. and Jim, you've raised a really good topic for discussion. We haven't got many good players; but we've got some.

It will be great if we could have a couple more in, but they really will have to be effective and immediate, and hopefully at least one goalscorer, and one midfield creative player.

Andrew James
8 Posted 11/01/2023 at 23:59:56
That team was very different. Horne, Parkinson and Ebbrell were uncompromising and sat in front of a very tough set of centre-halves in Unsworth and Watson. The midfielders worked bloody hard but also were able to release the ball at the optimum moments to our very good fourth midfielder, Anders Limpar, who was brilliant that season.

Combined with the brilliant set-pieces from Andy Hinchcliffe (I once saw him score an absolute beauty at Loftus Road) and two excellent target men in Ferguson and Rideout, along with the skills of Stuart, and we had a really good team.

Currently we just don't have that balance. When fit, Calvert-Lewin is a modern-day Rideout, I suppose, but who is our Hinchcliffe or Limpar?

The game has also changed so that having three defensive midfielders, two of whom can play a bit (as Parkinson and Ebbrell could) doesn't really work any longer.

Royle himself recognized the game was changing as he brought in Barmby and Speed (RIP) to evolve us from being the Dogs of War.

To be honest, I've not been excited about our set-pieces since Moyes left. Under Roberto they fizzled out, Koeman and Allardyce were pathetic which was weird as the former was renowned as a player for being a masterful free-kick taker. Silva was a joke when corners were awarded and Ancelotti was okay for Calvert-Lewin.

If we got set-piece routines going, we might just stay up, as we don't look potent elsewhere.

Danny O’Neill
9 Posted 12/01/2023 at 08:27:43
Games are won and lost in midfield. Our midfield is currently wide open too often. It is clearly visible and opposition teams are seeing it and exploiting it, let alone the likes of me from the stands or on TV.

The knock-on effect is that it causes our pretty decent defence to get separated as they try to compensate and create more gaps. We are wide open.

The suggestion we should add a midfielder at the expense of a forward (if I've interpreted that right) leans me towards you thinking of playing 4-2-3-1, Jim, which I like. But as with any formation, it depends on the players you have available – whatever formation you play.

Jim Lloyd, Tony and others. Play as a unit. Stay together in defence. Move up and down the pitch together. Be compact in defence, make space and make the pitch big in attack. But mind the gaps.

I was no big fan of the Dogs of War approach at the time. A necessity, so I got it and understood it.

It was good to hear someone call out that Joe Royle, who played in what those who witnessed claim was one of the greatest title-winning Everton teams they have seen, saw the need to change things once he'd addressed the immediate issue of fixing the leaks and tried to add quality. Sadly, and in typical Everton fashion, he was ultimately not supported by the board in what he was trying to achieve.

Good teams, successful teams, competitive teams most enjoy football. They are comfortable with a football and not afraid of it. They work as hard as "the Dogs" when retrieving possession, but they are comfortable with a football at their feet when they have possession. A lot of our players currently look afraid.

Paul Cherrington
10 Posted 12/01/2023 at 08:48:37
A superb article and spot on with one of the biggest issues the team seems to have at the moment. Although the quality of players at Lampard's disposal is not all his fault, how he is setting them up and using them is.

As Jim says, I find it almost unbelievable that the manager cannot see the glaring problems with our midfield, how we are set up and how we are playing. Or maybe he does but can't think how to fix them which is worrying!

It gets even more baffling when you think he was a top-class midfield player himself and should know exactly how to get our engine room functioning.

I would personally still prioritise a proven goalscorer to spend money on first to be honest, but there is no doubt our midfield needs work too.

I think much can be done for now by giving some of our best youngsters (like Price or Mills) a run in the team and adopting a 4-5-1 or 4-2-3-1 as others have said. Just need to make sure we switch to 4-3-3 in possession though or at least make sure one of the central midfielders or attacking midfielders gets up to support the front man when we have it.

Ajay Gopal
11 Posted 12/01/2023 at 09:00:07
I agree with the original post that our survival this season is dependent on:

1. Signing a goalscorer who can hit the ground running
2. A hard-working, intelligent midfield ball player
3. Lampard suddenly discovering tactical nous that would be at par with the continental coaches

I agree that, for the players that we have, a 4-4-2 formation would best suit us.

With the players that we have – including those who would be back from injuries, that would be:

Calvert-Lewin Gray
Davies (or Garner) Gana Onana Doucoure (or Iwobi)
Mykolenko Tarkowski Coady Coleman (or Patterson)

With: Simms, Gordon, Maupay, McNeil as options off the bench.

Robert Tressell
12 Posted 12/01/2023 at 10:48:26
Really good article. What Royle did so well was to drag together something that worked as a team (formation / organisation) - and improve the mood in the camp.

Lampard ended last season with a (usually) 4231 / 433 / 451 approach and a much improved mood in the camp. That seemed to suit the players we had then - with Richarlison being the key.

This season we've tried all sorts and nothing has clicked.

We're struggling to get anything to work without Richarlison. Even with 3 in midfield we have no control in possession and fail to protect the back 4 or 5.

What would Royle do now with what is available?

Probably a back 4.

A hard working midfield 3 of Onana, Gueye and Doucoure (or Garner when fit).

Gray and Iwobi / Gordon to provide the skill and pace and crosses - and chip in with goals.

DCL to head in those crosses etc and Maupay / Simms as options from the bench.

In all honesty that's not much different to what Lampard is already doing personnel / formation wise.

The difference seems to be organisation or lack of it. This is a different problem to formation.

Barry Rathbone
13 Posted 12/01/2023 at 11:24:34
Nothing to do with tactics it's about inspiration.

Pep probably played his usual tactics but it seems neither him or the club were arsed about the tie compared to Southampton and look what happened.

I don't doubt for a minute Frank can talk the numbers as well as any FIFA computer gaming spud but inspiring players to play at full bore week in week out is another matter.

Motivation is the golden tool of footy management and the number of managers to have it since footy began can be counted on your fingers.

Shankly, Clough, Mourinho, Wenger, Klopp, Busby, Kendall in the English game but then it tails off.

We are desperate for inspiration

Jim Lloyd
14 Posted 12/01/2023 at 11:59:06
I think it is to do with tactics, Barry; but equally it's to do with inspiration, motivation and instilling fight and confidence in the players.

We were called the Dogs of War under Joe. Which some used to beat us with in a derogatory way, but that was pure meaningless banter trying to wind us up.

Because we became successful, won the cup for the last time up to now and counting, missed out on Europe by a midge's dick. That came from us being relegation candidates, as you know.

Howard had it, I think Martinez had it in his slightly eccentric way, and the next Everton Motivator was us supporters at the tail end of last season.

Robert, Maybe even Maupay instead of Iwobi if he's still injured? he's a worker and a fighter but has he the brains, do you think?

Lenny Fisher
15 Posted 12/01/2023 at 12:36:38
Some great posts on here…. shows how knowledgeable the fans are.

I have been working in Spain the last 8 years and now I am back in Liverpool, looking forward to my visit to Goodison on Saturday.

When in Spain, I noticed that the managers seem to have a defensive coach in the stands behind the team's goalie,and another half-way between centre circle and the opponent's goal. Both situated in high position and connected via Bluetooth.

I wonder if Frank would consider this type of thing?
I know fat Sam used to.

Robert Tressell
16 Posted 12/01/2023 at 12:37:36
Yes, possibly Maupay in for Iwobi, Jim.

However, the simple fact is that we've been a much poorer side without Richarlison. There's no tactics or formation that will resolve that.

Motivation is important too, Barry. I think Lampard did a good job with that initially. Not sure now. He's obviously finding the job very hard indeed and doesn't have a clear sense of how he is going to get us out of the mire.

That's where managers like Redknapp and Allardyce have simplified it all, got players on side, and got results.

Jim Lloyd
17 Posted 12/01/2023 at 13:52:18
Not half Robert!.. I know he wanted to leave, so we had plenty of time to look for and sound out players who could help fill the gap after he went.

I wonder if the club is extremely hamstrung by what funds we have available to spend.

It seems to me that if we had the money up front, the choice of Maupay and McNeill seem quite odd. It got me guessing whether Everton were looking for clubs who would be prepared to take the money for those two players on the drip.

Without being disrespectful to either, I would have thought we could have done with, and chosen for the money we spent, much more effective players than those two. Goalscoring and creative midfield are areas that we are so much in need of improvement.

I wouldn't have thought we could afford to wait to see if DCL would come back fit or not.

I agree with you, that he seems now to be bewildered as to how to set the team out, to get the best out of them. Your spot on that managers who have been well versed in pulling teams out of the mire, would have made a plan, bought what players they could to fit that plan, then get them motivated to work to that plan

Paul, without a doubt, Goalscorer is top, top priority.

Robert Tressell
18 Posted 12/01/2023 at 14:13:00
Jim, I think you must be right:

Tarkowski - free
Coady - loan
Onana - on the drip
McNeil - on the drip
Garner - ?
Gueye - cheap
Maupay - ?
Vinagre - loan

We also know we couldn't get Cornet because Burnley wanted the fee up-front.

So it's entirely possible we bought in the only players other clubs would release without actual up-front payment.

If that's the case, we can't really blame Lampard and Thelwell for sub-standard recruitment. It all comes down to the mess created from the idiotic transfer activity in the first few years under Moshiri.

Jim Lloyd
19 Posted 12/01/2023 at 14:31:36
I think it could be, Jim. And we can look back and see the trail of knee-jerk decisions and similar reactions when those decisions weren't producing golden eggs, but dog muck.

What you've just itemised, shows a club short of money (for whatever reason) and the manager and DoF trying to repair a fair number of holes in the team, with time running out and maybe cash too.

I was thinking about Howard Kendall this morning and read Barry's post regarding Howard. Probably the most motivating manager in Everton's history while I've been supporting Everton.

Why we didn't get Brian Clough, or someone of that personality, when the chance came, I can only guess. I think the Board would have pooed Blue Lights!

Mind you, we would be wise to remember how near we came to losing Howard, when the pettion was going round to get rid of him, and Phillip Carter held firm (think it was Sir Phillip).

Then the rest, as they say, "is History"!

John Gall
20 Posted 12/01/2023 at 17:34:32
As I remember it, when it worked well, Royle's team had strong characters like Southall, Watson and Horne in it, a couple of nutters in Ferguson and Parkinson, and the skillful wingers Limpar and Kanchelskis who both created and scored plenty of goals. The current team has none of these qualities. And Royle himself was astute and charismatic. Quite simply it's a classic relegation team - weak in all parts of the pitch. The worst Everton team I've seen, perhaps apart from the tragedy of Howard's third reign.
Kieran Kinsella
21 Posted 12/01/2023 at 18:14:16

A few you forgot to mention. Hinchcliffe was deadly on corners and crosses, and Rideout. The latter was the most exciting but he was a very competent centre forward with a decent goal percentage. Much better than Maupay.

Paul Kossoff
22 Posted 12/01/2023 at 18:17:58
Jim 3, team of no hopers? I wish we had that team now.
Much more than dogs, a team of skill and winners.
GK 1 Wales Neville Southall
RB 2 England Matt Jackson
CB 5 England Dave Watson (c)
CB 26 England David Unsworth
LB 6 England Gary Ablett
RM 17 Sweden Anders Limpar.
CM 18 England Joe Parkinson
CM 10 Wales Barry Horne
LM 3 England Andy Hinchcliffe
SS 8 England Graham Stuart
CF 15 England Paul Rideout.
GK 13 Australia Jason Kearton
FW 9 Scotland Duncan Ferguson.
FW 11 Nigeria Daniel Amokachi.
England Joe Royle
Paul Kossoff
23 Posted 12/01/2023 at 18:41:52
We really have rose tinted glasses half full not near empty supporters on here don't we. Fkg Maupay doing the Iwobi job. Iwobi can just about do a job but, relying on a player that couldn't get in the Brighton first team and can't do the job he was bought for to get us out the shit, we really are fkd I'm afraid.
Jim Wilson
24 Posted 12/01/2023 at 20:08:02
Paul @ 22 when Joe took over the team from Mike Walker they were deemed no hopers. One win in 14 games. That is the point!
Paul Kossoff
25 Posted 12/01/2023 at 21:01:00
Jim the point I'm making is that team had 100% more than the shite we have now. I would have every one of them and the manager replacing these con men. I really feel we have had it.
Jim Lloyd
26 Posted 12/01/2023 at 21:05:54
Paul, How do you know he can't play a midfield role! it looks unlikely he's suddenly going to burst the net loads of times! but one lives in hope!

Unless we get a couple of players in, it would make sense to see what other roles our players can perform. If Calvert-Lewin is fit, that alters things. if he isn't, do you see Maupay scoring goals?

Robert Tressell
27 Posted 12/01/2023 at 21:17:49
That Royle team managed to find it's way after Walker - but it was pretty patchy at least to my teenage memory.

Southall was miles off the keeper he had been. Out of the back 4, Watson (pretty old himself by then) only got 13 England caps, Unsworth 1 and neither Ablett or Jackson got a cap. Horne was already pretty old and discarded by Saints. Hinchcliffe was a LB playing Left Wing / Midfield. Stuart and Rideout were very limited, again neither getting capped for England. Limpar was the one true talent and he was on a downward trajectory after Arsenal. None of those players was going to attract any real attention from a top side, put it that way.

It's not unlike the mixed bag we've got now. What Royle did was make sure our midfield couldn't be out fought and protected the defence properly - something Tony Abrahams rightly despairs about with the current set up. Royle also sorted out our set pieces.

Weirdly, Lampard was a member of a beautifully balanced well functioning midfield trio with Makalele and Essien but seems not to have a clue how to organise complementary roles for Gueye, Onana and whoever else.

Tony Abrahams
28 Posted 12/01/2023 at 21:35:26
Very interesting that last sentence about Lampard, Robert, because organizing our midfield is something that should be second nature, to an ex midfield player, but our midfield has been all over the place.
Jim Lloyd
29 Posted 12/01/2023 at 22:31:43
Well we haven't got those players now though,have we Paul. The point is,unless we get reinforements, then we have to make do with what we've got. For half a season Maupay hasn't shown that he is able to use what talent he has. That might be his fault but more likely, we're not using any talents that he does has. Iwobi is likely to be out for 3 weeks or so. Even when he's in, however, he often leaves the midfield and therefore the defence, open to attack.
While he;s out, I hope Lampard is seeing what use he can make of players, who he's not able to use in their favourite positions. If Maupy can't do a midfield role, we've not lost anything.
Jim Wilson
30 Posted 12/01/2023 at 22:38:05
Great points there Robert @ 27

Royle got the best out of the '94 team by getting them organised, playing to their strengths and like you said making sure the midfield could not be outplayed.

The players were much maligned under Walker but became heroes under Royle.

I have no idea how good the present players could become but I am positive most could perform better than they are at present.

Lampard has not organised the team well enough and confidence is low and we need someone to come in, organise. strengthen the midfield and get the team playing with more cohesion and as a result more confidence.

Jim Lloyd
31 Posted 12/01/2023 at 22:44:39
Spot on Jim! Big Joe got them organised, motivated and woul fight for every ball, in every game, except maybe Anders; but he made up for that for some stunning football.
John Gall
32 Posted 13/01/2023 at 08:36:22
The best Everton performance of the 90s (admittedly the competition isn't that stiff) was under Royle - the 1995 FA Cup Semi-Final 4-1 victory over Spurs at Elland Road. It was probably the most uplifting, exciting experience watching that game since the 86-7 Championship season. And, I'd argue, perhaps the last time an Everton team got even close to living up to the motto. For that day alone I'll always have a soft spot for Joe and that team. That was also the season Everton began to shack off the shackles of being a racist club by signing Amokachi, a joyful player who really made that day at Elland Road extra special.
Danny O’Neill
33 Posted 13/01/2023 at 15:28:12
I wouldn't argue that, John @32, but I'd give you the Kanchelskis double at Anfield.

I wasn't in the Everton section, which I think made it even more satisfying and enjoyable.

Stu Darlington
34 Posted 13/01/2023 at 20:30:27
Not much of a tactician, too many numbers and formations for me to get my head round. I just know what I see in front of me, and that's our midfield being overrun every game.

We need to get the midfield set up right otherwise it just puts the defence under constant pressure and eventually even the best defences will crack. So to me we need to get more bodies in there preferably playing in the right positions.

This may then provide us with the platform to get the ball forward. Maybe it's me being naïve, but football is a simple game made complicated by experts.

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