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Pressing, attacking fullbacks and possession - Tactical Analysis of Frank Lampard’s coaching career so far.

What could a Lampard-coached Everton team look like?

Everton Training Session Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

With Everton finally announcing former Chelsea and Derby County manager Frank Lampard to take over the reins, it’s a good time to take a look at his managerial credentials and put to test the perceptions about him as a progressive and attacking proponent of the game.

To start, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at his journey so far as a manager and what I expect Everton to look like in the future. How has he set up in the past? How will he line up at Everton? Will we finally see a midfield three? Let’s find out.

Frank Lampard started his managerial career at Derby County, where he led them to a sixth place finish but didn’t manage to get them promoted through the play offs. He was then offered his dream job at the club he spent most of his playing days at, Chelsea. He lasted 18 months before being sacked whilst ninth in the table, having lost five games out of the last nine.

For some of his time at the London club, they were under a transfer embargo meaning they couldn’t sign and players. This meant Frank had to promote from within and we saw the emergence of youngsters such as Reece James and Mason Mount. This will be fantastic news for the young players coming through at Everton, knowing a manager has been appointed who isn’t afraid to give the youth a chance.

Derby County v West Bromwich Albion - Sky Bet Championship
Frank Lampard celebrating a victory at Derby County.
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

In terms of formation, Lampard is a fan of the 4-3-3 setup. The full backs are asked to get forward often. The wide midfielders would drift inside, vacating space and dragging opposition full backs out of position. This creates the space for the full backs to advance into. One of the central midfielders, often Mason Mount for both sides he managed, would play extremely aggressively in attack. He would make constant runs into forward spaces. This led to him scoring plenty of goals while creating more for his teammates also.

This is one of the reasons I’m really excited by the signing of Donny van de Beek. I expect him to be used in a very similar way to Mason Mount under Lampard. He has the ability to carry the ball, get shots off and is also able to thread passes through in advanced areas. There is also a possibility we could see van de Beek played in a slightly deeper role, due to his ball retention skills, he could be effective in playmaking from deep. Everton have struggled mightily this season with retaining the ball, and are third last in the league in that metric with just 40.5% of the ball.

Tactically, there was a large emphasis on possession. At Derby County, they averaged 56.2% of the ball, the 5th highest in the league. In his first season at Chelsea, he averaged over 60%, only bettered by league frontrunners Liverpool and Manchester City. Of course, Chelsea have always been a side that dominates possession, but that isn’t the case for Derby County. The season before Frank Lampard was appointed, they averaged just 47.9%, so you can see the impact his style had on the team.

As well as the possession, defensively he has his teams pressing relentlessly and high up the pitch. At Derby, his PPDA (passes allowed per defensive action) was 8.33. Only Leeds United (of course) and Norwich City had a lower number. In simpler terms, the lower the number, the more pressing is taking place as you’re not allowing the opposition to complete as many passes before being tackled or intercepting a pass.

Looking at how I think he will setup with Everton, I believe he will stick with his tried and tested 4-3-3 he’s used in the past. My main concern is the lack of a natural sitting midfielder but looking at the current squad I think Allan will most likely take up that role, for the remainder of this season at least, with van De Beek and Abdoulaye Doucoure either side of him which certainly excites me. As I mentioned earlier, Donny can play in the ‘Mason Mount’ role, being the most advanced of the three. Doucoure can break up play but also advance forward as he has the protection of Allan behind. With Lampard often giving youth a chance, I’d be surprised if we didn’t see a fair amount of Nathan Patterson in the remaining games. He loves attacking full backs and Patterson is just that.

Manchester United v BSC Young Boys: Group F - UEFA Champions League Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images

Another deadline day addition saw Everton sign England international Dele Alli. Although he started his career in emphatic fashion winning multiple PFA Young Player of The Year awards, he seems to have hit a small road block in his development. A move to a club where the manager clearly has a massive appreciation for him could do him the world of good. He is still thought of very highly throughout the game, with Mauricio Pocchetino and Sir Alex Ferguson among fans of his.

The issue we have now is trying to fit van De Beek and Dele Alli into the same team. They share similar attributes in the way they love to get forward, get shots off and keep possession but we have seen van De Beek utilised in a more deeper role at times and this may be the solution to our defensive midfield problem. Not only that, having two players of this quality battling it out for similar positions can only give Frank Lampard some welcome selection headaches.

The new Everton manager personally spoke to both players and was a key factor in the pair making the switch to Goodison Park, so he is well aware of their strengths and weaknesses, and how he wants to deploy the pair. The Toffees have not had a midfielder capable of consistently making the late runs into boxes that tend to net goals by the bucketload, as our defence can testify, so it will be good to have a couple more players capable of doing just that.

There was of course, like with every manager, some negatives to his managerial career so far. At Derby, although finishing in 6th position, he did have the help of loanees such as Fikayo Tomori and Mount who were, realistically, too good for that league. They were also in the bottom half of the league for xG so there were some claims that they were reasonably lucky to finish in the playoff positions. This was Lampard’s first managerial role so personally, finishing 6th in a very gruelling and physical league like the Championship is some achievement.

At Chelsea, he was sacked in his second season. Once the transfer embargo was lifted, Stamford Bridge side spent a lot of money bringing in the likes of Timo Werner and Kai Havertz but neither player hit the ground running which really didn’t help Frank’s cause. He proved unable to manage the large squad and the wealth of riches handed to him and fell victim to the whims of a very fickle owner and a fanbase that were not used to losing a handful of games. Ultimately, I think that job was too soon for him, and the club were tempted by the fairy-tale story line of a club legend coming in as manager, a feeling Evertonians know only too well.

He has assembled a very experienced coaching staff around him at the Toffees, and that takes a lot of the pressure of man-management off Lampard’s shoulders as wiser and older heads like Paul Clement and Joe Edwards can handle that. Duncan Ferguson and Alan Kelly stay on as well, which will help bridge any gaps with the incoming staff and the playing squad.

What really excites me about Lampard is his passion, hunger and character. Watching him in interviews, he seems like a very intelligent man who demands success. He has been used to glory as a player and will want exactly the same as a manager. If you’re taking the Everton job in this current situation, you must be extremely confident in your abilities. If he fails at Goodison Park, he’s going to find it very difficult to convince other clubs that he’s the right man for the job. After getting sacked previously, this is his chance to prove he’s a good manager and I’m sure he wouldn’t have signed the contract if he didn’t believe he could turn the club around.

Aston Villa v Derby County - Sky Bet Championship Play-off Final
Frank Lampard with Mason Mount.
Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Overall, I think it’s a great appointment from Everton Football Club so credit where it’s due, they got it right, eventually. That the Board was able to back him on deadline day with two definitive signings is even more of a positive. Of course, time will tell if it is truly the correct appointment but it’s a manager that knows the league and is clearly a hungry, positive coach. Hopefully we see a lot of our talented youngsters given a chance now as he’s got a fantastic track record of developing young players into first team talents. He kicks off his reign with Brentford at home in the FA Cup Fourth Round on Saturday, and I expect the sold out Goodison Park crowd to give him a warm, passionate welcome.