The Premier League resumes this weekend, and for Everton and manager Frank Lampard, this has been a much needed break. It’s been an opportunity for his coaching staff to reevaluate their expectations of this squad, and likely get more realistic about what they can and can’t do in the eleven remaining games to ensure their survival at the top table.
Speaking ahead of their trip to West Ham on Sunday, Lampard stressed the importance of the international break for the whole club and what he’s been saying to the players.
“It’s been a welcome break. I think at a time with a run-in [to the end of the season] coming, it’s good for them to play for their countries, it’s always an honour for them. For others the players that needed some work have had some work, those that needed a little bit of rest have got some rest so we’ve used it as positively as we can.
“I challenge them all the time to show what they’re made of because that’s the Premier League and that’s what the demands are. There’s nothing in my comments [after the Palace loss] too far from the norm for this level of competition. The basics have to be there - having character and fight. To play for Everton as a young man means you have character, it means you’ve come a long way. The character is there, it’s just applying it in the right way is always crucial.”
One of Lampard’s January signings, the much-heralded Dele Alli, has barely gotten any playing time and been quite unimpressive when he has made it onto the pitch, but Lampard did not want to single him out.
“I think it’s been good for him to work and to train, as it has a few others, to get extra fitness and sharpness. He’s the same as any player, forward areas, midfield, attack especially, we need everybody to be giving everything they can, he’s absolutely in that bracket.”
The manager was asked to provide an injury update on his squad, starting with Andros Townsend who is likely out for the rest of the season after sustaining a knee injury early in the loss at Crystal Palace.
“Andros Townsend we know is a long-term injury, we feel a lot for him. We’re supporting him, he’ll be back strong because that’s the lad that he is.
“Yerry Mina will hopefully be back with us in the next couple of weeks. He’s a big player for us, an international player, of stature and personality in the dressing room. I haven’t had much on-pitch time to work with him unfortunately. You miss a player of that level, especially in an area where you want stability, it’s difficult because you want that level, that competition. Centre-back is a crucial area, and he’s been a big miss.
“Fabian Delph we’re hoping is another week or so. It’s a slightly complicated injury but again it will be a big plus to have him back in the squad because it’s in area in which we’ve had some issues. That’s where we’re at.”
Dominic Calvert-Lewin had gotten off to a hot start at the beginning of the season, but injuries have blighted the campaign both for the player and the club.
“The break has been positive for Dominic. I’ve only had him for three games. He was playing short of fitness, a striker wants to be, needs to be 100%. We’ve worked well with him over the last couple of weeks.
“Without putting un-due pressure on him - because it’s tough for a striker with expectations - but he’s in a good place.”