Everton began the season with such promise after finishing 10th the previous year. Despite losing the heralded Carlo Ancelotti, they secured Champions League winner Rafa Benítez as manager, even though he won that medal with Merseyside rivals, Liverpool. Local contention aside, it was seen as a quality appointment.
However, it turned out as anything but, with Benítez being dismissed and Frank Lampard taking up the role in late January. It seemed like Lampard took the job like a duck to water before a horrendous run took them into a relegation battle. Nevertheless, can Lampard repeat what David Moyes did when he took the Everton job 20 years ago and survive relegation?
Galvanize the Squad
Everton had lost a lot of team spirit in February, March and April, with a humiliating defeat to Spurs 5-0 being one of the lowest points of their season. The turbulent months put them in the relegation zone, and only two recent results have put them in a better position. Bookmakers have their Premiership relegation odds only slightly better than Burnley and Leeds, with the season approaching its end.
Their recent wins against Leicester City and Lampard’s old team, Chelsea, seem to have given them the boost they needed at the business end of the season. A humiliating defeat to Liverpool gave Lampard the blueprint he needed to compete in these big games: sit back, absorb pressure and hit quickly on the counter. However, it’s not just a tactical shift the games have taught them, but a warrior attitude and fighting until the end.
Lampard has never been in a relegation battle as a manager or even as a player, but he has been in plenty of tight games and even some as the underdog. The 2012 Champions League final is a prime example, where the Blues were completely outmatched for talent against Bayern Munich. However, they had a siege mentality and wouldn’t give in, eventually winning the game on penalties.
Lampard has a vast amount of game experience he can bring to rally his squad to survival. The last two wins against teams better than them prove that they can win. Empowering players like Anthony Gordon and Richarlison has brought life and energy to the Toffees. Switching to a five at the back system allows them to form a combative spirit in the defense before playing quick balls in behind for forwards to chase. It’s a great way of engaging the crowd and grinding out vital victories.
Lampard has proven in the last few games that he is willing to leave his ideal tactics behind to get results. He understands the magnitude of these last few games and that they can’t drop points if they are to survive. His willingness to put extra defenders behind the ball and play quick passes to the attack rather than playing out from the back with full-backs pushed up shows a maturity that should keep Everton up. Next season, when he has an entire preseason, he will have ample time to implement his style and ideas, but, for now, it’s all about avoiding relegation.