Frank Lampard started off his tenure at Everton with a bang over the weekend as his side swept into the FA Cup Fifth Round with a 4-1 win over visiting Brentford. Things get much more critical this week though, starting tomorrow with a trip to Newcastle and then a visit from Leeds United on Saturday, both teams hovering around the same area of the Premier League table the Toffees now occupy.
Speaking during his pre-match press conference, Lampard looked to relieve some of the pressure by playing down how critical these ‘six-pointers’ can be.
“They’re important games but we have to stay calm, there’s still a long way to go, 18 games left. To put everything on these two games would be the wrong attitude.
“We absolutely have to isolate them, face them in the right way, against two strong teams. The game tomorrow night is against a strong team who have reinforced with signings, and have a passionate fanbase that can affect the game. It’s important for us to approach that without fear and with confidence.”
The two new deadline day signings Donny van de Beek and Dele Alli will also be in the squad for tomorrow’s game, with Lampard pleased with how well they’ve integrated already in training. There has been some criticism of Dele from some sectors of the media regarding his choice of car and clothing, and the manager hit back.
“I’ve heard some of the reaction and I have a lot of respect for everyone who has spoken - Ally McCoist, Alan Brazil, Glenn Hoddle - people I would never go against their word. But when you work closely with players and working with Dele, my personal opinion is I don’t care what car he drives, what clothes he wears, as long as I get a lad that comes to training every day, wants to improve every day, respects the club and his team-mates, and then produces.
“I think the modern day has moved on and it’s changed we all have to be very aware of that and again I’m not hitting back at any form of observation because everyone’s allowed their own opinion. But I can only deal with what’s in front of me and when I’ve just mentioned that Dele and Donny are both great lads, I mean it. And maybe Donny wears an overcoat that’s longer than what Dele wears, a different kind of jacket, that doesn’t bother me as long as they produce on the pitch.
“Everyone has their own individual personality. To try and handcuff that or restrict that I think would be detrimental. So as I say, as long as players do the right behaviours when it comes to football and do the right things I’ve got no worries.
There has been a lot of talk that van de Beek and Dele are too similar in playing style, what does Lampard have in mind for them?
“I wouldn’t have brought them in if they can’t complement one another. It’s an area of the pitch I felt we needed to strengthen. They are two very good, intelligent players with different styles, different attributes.
“If we are going to be flexible with our system going forward, which at times I will want to be, the can certainly play together and we could certainly complement them with players we’ve already got, but I’m not here to lean on those two too much because I have to respect the whole squad.”
Does Lampard believe that Dele can get back to the level he previously was at with Tottenham?
“I don’t want to put a line or a target on it, because he was at an extremely high level. I loved watching him play, he was so effective in the way he played.
“Where we are now, the last thing I want to say is this is where we are going to get to. A player at his age of 25 with those talents that we all saw, and we have to look at the reasons around it and help him get there.
“He’s a talented boy, come into a new environment, settled in very quickly with his teammates. The reason we bought him is because I want to see those qualities from two or three years ago, and I believe we can bring them out, that’s what we are aiming for.”