Our review of the past Everton season starts with a review of the manager Frank Lampard
While Frank Lampard did not begin this season as the manager of Everton, by the end of this very challenging campaign, he seems to have grown into a figure who is quite appreciated around Merseyside. This is a massive change from how things were between the supporters and the man Lampard replaced - Rafa Benitez.
When Benitez got sacked in January following a run of one win in fourteen league games, it was perhaps not immediately obvious that Lampard would or indeed should get the job. There was so much riding on that decision, and after a difficult second half of the season, it appears that it was a positive move in a different direction from where Rafa was bringing the club.
Where Lampard appears to have excelled though has been in uniting the fanbase by engaging the most vocal elements of the support. The spotlight had been firmly on the club’s leadership towards the end of 2021, but the former Chelsea boss has been able to direct the fans’ attention back to the team and supporting the players.
Everton finished 16th in the Premier League this season, and only narrowly escaped relegation after a dramatic win on the second-to-last match of the campaign. However, there should be some context given to this entire Toffee campaign. It was not great, to be sure, but injuries, poor morale, poor organization, and a bit of a footballing hangover from the brief Rafa Benitez Era, created a circumstance where a massive turnaround was going to have to occur - and ultimately it did.
While August and September were hot months for the Toffees - as they were last season - that tailed off in October, and between injuries, poor luck, form and spirits, the old boss was unable to rally the Blues in any real, meaningful manner. From October to the 15th of January 2022, Rafa Benitez and Everton won only one Premier League match - against Arsenal in Goodison Park on a Monday night in early December - had lost to QPR in the Carabao Cup by late September, and then barely squeaked by Hull City by a score of 3-2 in extra-time of the third round of the FA Cup.
Once Frank Lampard took over, his run from his first match - the fifth of February - to the shock comeback at Goodison Park against Crystal Palace to save Everton from relegation, the boss coached an outfit that at least worked as hard as they could, even if the results were not always the best. Six Premier League wins, two draws, nine defeats, an FA Cup victory against Brentford and a subsequent loss to Crystal Palace just weeks later.
Is that a great run? No. It is not, with or without the team’s star players, it is not a good run. Adding in the Arsenal loss at the end of the season, and it’s even less good, objectively speaking. Yet given the state and morale of the team at the time of Lampard’s hiring, the fight and run that they demonstrated and went upon was what this team needed to show to stay afloat in this rather lost season. Frank accomplished what he had to, and now has a summer to implement and strategize for what might come next.
Everton under Frank Lampard experimented and tried to find the right combinations of available players to ultimately make a difference in each match. 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 were the formations employed early on before the manager decided to buckle down on the fragile defence with a 3-4-3 for most of the remainder of the season, which turned into a 5-4-1 without the ball.
It was an all-hands-on-deck type approach once Lampard became the boss, and while the style of play became more free-flowing and fun, as he wanted his players memorably to “enjoy the ball,” almost everyone seemed to contribute by the end of the season. Injuries continued to hamper this team, but when everyone got into a good rhythm and onto the pitch, things appeared smoother and more engaging than they had been under Rafa Benitez.
Exceptions - those who did not contribute very much - such as Anwar El-Ghazi and Cenk Tosun, can be pointed out but other names that had seemed distant memories emerged too. Fabian Delph came in and become a key component in the midfield when the club needed him the most, Anthony Gordon got more playing time than ever, Jarrad Branthwaite was given opportunities, and Michael Keane demonstrated what makes him a Merseyside hero in his own right.
Some formation and tactical choices were regrettable - such as in the first halves against Tottenham and Crystal Palace - and yet other selections - such as regarding the high-pressing 3-4-3 used against his old club, Chelsea - were brilliant. Frank Lampard did not have a full summer to work on this club, and so must be judged for what he was able to accomplish as he worked and scrapped as diligently as he could to improve this very talented, yet thoroughly underperforming outfit.
There is some criticism feasibly that could come Lampard’s way given his stubbornness with sticking with tactics that clearly did not work such as the two-man midfield, and his reluctance in many situations to not use the full complement of three substitutes available to him when clearly the players on the pitch were flagging. The 43-year-old was often out-thought by his opposing manager and ended up being the reactionary rather than the proactive change-maker.
Then there is the whole away record debacle. Lampard may have had his side playing more freely and with more confidence, but their away form was still pretty shocking right until the end of the season, with the Blues having the joint worst away record in the league. That is definitely something he and his coaching staff will have to work on for next season.
Frank Lampard has certainly earned his summer vacation but big in his thoughts will be the style he wants to play next season, and the personnel he will need to execute that. Early summer transfer rumours related to the Blues seem to indicate that an influx of youth comfortable on the ball can be expected.
It is difficult to imagine that the boss who kept Everton afloat during this trying season would not return for next season too. He has deserved that opportunity to be sure, and the respect and admiration he has been able to inspire on the Blue half of Merseyside - for a Londoner - is impressive all on its own.
Lampard will have more financial flexibility in all likelihood than his predecessor had last summer - for a number of reasons - and should he be able to retain the services of both Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison for just one more season, alongside the summer recruitment and organization, this team could be a sight more imposing next year than they proved to be for most of this season.
Lampard did what he was hired to do, which was save the club from almost certain relegation. The football his side played to do that was at times a throwback to the 90s, and that would not have impressed anyone. However, he does seem to have the backing of the Board, the players and the fanbase and that sets him good stead.
Backed by new Director of Football Kevin Thelwell, he will have a chance to bring in players of his own choosing and implement a playing style that should be more with the times. Given the circumstances of his hiring and the Blues miserable run of form at the time, we give Lampard a solid ‘B’ for his half season of work.