Frank Lampard intention is to implement a new style of play at Everton and that is a good thing as it implies he wants to make the opposition react to his team, rather than being the one who reacts to others. Drills on the training pitch and repetition will engender familiarity and confidence in the new progressive approach. What won’t, however is his charges being annihilated as they were at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Unfortunately, the manager needs to understand the shortcomings of his players, as well as their qualities. They just aren’t good enough to go out there and impose their style of play, as are, say Manchester City.
The set-up on Monday night was all wrong and fell completely into Tottenham Hotspur boss Antonio Conte’s hands. As I’d discussed in my pre-match analysis of Spurs, the Italian actively wants opponents to push up high, overcommit and lose possession, leading to swift, explosive counterattacks and this is exactly what the Blues did. Deploying a high-line with a slow and disorganized defence like Everton’s is a disaster waiting to happen. After an initial ten minutes, in which the team’s active pressing caused the home side some discomfort, things fell apart rapidly. The midfield were frequently caught up the pitch counter-pressing, but when Spurs bypassed the press, they were able to break on a retreating Blues defence, with Allan typically the only obstacle. With the pace of Son Heung-min and Dejan Kulusevski, allied to the cleverness of Harry Kane, the visitors were cut apart with alarming ease. The Toffees were also highly congested in central areas, leaving the Spurs wingbacks every opportunity to exploit huge spaces on the flanks, Matt Doherty ending up with two assists to his name.
This will be a bitter lesson for Lampard, but he must learn from it and realize, as he did against Man City, that he will need to adapt on occasion and certainly away from Goodison Park.
If not now, then when?
Considering the dire financial situation the Blues find themselves in, it is mystifying how the club sanctioned bringing in two fullbacks (Nathan Patterson and Vitaliy Mykolenko) for a combined initial outlay of £29m, during the final weeks of beleaguered manager Rafa Benitez’ reign at Goodison Park, only for both to play little part in the ongoing battle to stave off relegation. Yes, Everton have long needed to replace Seamus Coleman and - due to a serious falling out between Benitez and Lucas Digne - a left back also, but the problem is that neither addition is currently starting. Instead, we are seeing the veteran captain rolled out for match after match, playing the full 90 in all of Lampard’s league matches to date and Jonjoe Kenny deployed at left back in four of the new manager’s five EPL games.
In Mykolenko’s case, he has only 32 minutes of league action under Lampard, with right back Kenny preferred on the left. Kenny has done a decent job as a fill-in, but was as poor as the rest of the back four against Spurs, offering no threat on his flank and struggling to maintain a steady defensive line, playing attackers onside on two occasions, one of which resulted in a goal. Now, the Ukrainian is having to settle into a new country and of course will have distractions considering the situation in his homeland, but Kenny cannot be anything but emergency cover at left back and the 22-year old needs to be selected. Often, on Monday the home team left the academy graduate in acres of space, so little threat did he offer. Mykolenko, a left-footer, offers balance at the very least.
As for Coleman, it is a sorrowful tale how the club has neglected to adequately replace the Irishman, who at 33 has been in decline for some time and seen his form fall off a cliff this season. It is shameful how he’s been hung out to dry so often. Lampard has talked of the veteran’s leadership and performances, but he is clearly at the stage of his career in which he can no longer be considered a starter in the Premier League. Struggling with the athletic demands of his role, he offers little in attack and is making mistakes; errant passes in the second half led directly to two goals. If youngster Patterson was not considered an immediate upgrade on Coleman, why was he signed in the middle of a relegation battle?
One of former Everton Director of Football Marcel Brands’ stated aims, when assuming his post back in May 2018, was to create a squad where there would be two players for every position, or in other words, competition for places. In the years since the Blues have added a great deal of talent to the squad. Even during the current season, operating under pressure to comply with the Premier League’s Profitability and Sustainability regulations, the club has brought in no fewer than ten new players (including the so-far unused veteran third-choice goalkeeper Andy Lonergan). There are now 28 members of the first team, plus some prospects from the U-23s that are in and around the matchday squad, such as Lewis Dobbin, which should satisfy Brands’ aspirations. However, such has been the chaotic approach to squad-building, hampered by managerial churn and muddied transfer responsibility, that Lampard finds himself with an unbalanced side offering options in some areas but little to none in others.
Several Everton players are considered automatic inclusions on match day and have for some time, for a variety of reasons, either that they are high-calibre operators, consistent or just readily available. Other than the odd full-back situation, mentioned above, there’s the likes of Michael Keane, who has started all but three league matches this season and completed the full 90 in each, before being withdrawn at half-time on Monday. He’s had a torrid time much of the way, with a number of notable errors and his confidence looks shot, which may see him pulled out of the line-up at the weekend.
Unfortunately, Lampard is short of anything like a reliable alternative, even if Ben Godfrey is available once more after an injury layoff. Again, in midfield the players pick themselves, assuming the manager sticks with a central trio for the Wolves match, but he has to find a way to get Dele Alli on the pitch from the start. The ex-Spurs man has now racked up five substitute appearances for a combined 138 minutes; at this rate the season will be over before he is up to speed. An argument can be made for a shift to a 4231 with Dele playing in his favoured central attacking position, but if the boss sticks to 433 then there’s no reason he can’t play in midfield with licence to get forward.
Finally, one area in which the Toffees do enjoy some options is in the attack. Dominic Calvert-Lewin is struggling to make an impact since returning from four months out injured. He’ll only get there by building up fitness through minutes on the pitch, but Lampard needs to replace him sooner if he is as ineffective as he was in Monday’s game, in which he took five bad touches and attempted only nine passes. Likewise, Richarlison has failed to score in five consecutive league matches, hit the target with only two shots, but has played all but five minutes over that run. He is an important player, but offered little threat against Spurs and lost the ball on eight occasions. Everton are paying Anwar El Ghazi until the end of the season and if nothing else he offers pace, directness and knows the way to goal. If the Brazilian is not impactful, then why not throw the winger on for more than a few minutes?