There are many at Chelsea who have plenty to thank Frank Lampard for. While the former midfielder lasted just a-season-and-a-half as manager at Stamford Bridge, he fast-tracked a number of young players, including Mason Mount and Reece James, into the first team. Lampard set up Chelsea for a brighter future.
Now, he is being asked to deliver something similar for Everton. Lampard was appointed manager at Goodison Park with the Toffees sitting perilously in 16th place in the Premier League table, and the 43-year-old must turn around his new team to save them from the very genuine threat of relegation.
Lampard has already started to make his mark on the Everton squad. Dele Alli and Donny van de Beek were both signed by the Merseyside outfit on transfer deadline day. It’s not yet clear how these two midfielders will fit into Lampard’s side, but Everton are likely to be more fluid, more attack-minded than they were under Rafael Benitez.
Player personnel aside, Everton is a toxic environment right now. There is a disconnect between the team on the pitch, and certainly the directors in the boardroom, and the fans in the stands. Lampard hasn’t only been hired to build a winning team, but to re-establish the emotional connection between the club and those who care about it most.
To help do this Lampard could turn to Everton’s youth ranks. The Goodison Park outfit boasts one of the most productive academies in English soccer as demonstrated by the recent breakthrough of Anthony Gordon and there are others who could make the step up – see Tyler Onyango, Rhys Hughes, Sean McAllister and Lewis Warrington (who recently joined Tranmere Rovers on loan).
Fans naturally gravitate towards academy graduates. Mount, for instance, is seen by the Chelsea fanbase as a representation of the club’s values. Everton supporters need players to latch on to now more than ever before. They need representatives on the pitch to fight for them. The academy could hold a few such figures.
“You can feel the passion Everton fans have for their club,” Lampard said following his unveiling as Everton manager. “That will be hugely important. As a team – the competitive level that the Premier League brings and the position we are in the table – we certainly need that. It’s a two-way thing.”
“I think Everton is a unique club in that you can really understand what the fans want to see. The first thing they want is fight and desire and that must always be our baseline. My first message to the players will be that we have to do this together. We’ll try to do our job and I know the fans will be there backing us.”
To be a success at Everton, Lampard must learn from many of the mistakes he made as Chelsea manager. The former England international has pitched himself as a unity figure, and it’s certainly true that Everton’s dressing room could use some unifying, but Lampard will still have to make some difficult decisions.
As a tactician, Lampard has to prove himself. His Chelsea team was defensively vulnerable – this doesn’t bode well for an Everton side that has conceded more goals than any other Premier League rival besides Watford, Newcastle United, Norwich City and Leeds United – and didn’t play with much structure at any time in his tenure.
The deadline day addition of Dele and van de Beek raises questions over how Lampard will set up his new team in the centre of the pitch. As Chelsea boss, Lampard favoured a 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2 formation, but to fit Dele, Doucoure, van de Beek and an anchor into the same midfield, he might have to use a diamond.
There is talent at Goodison Park. In the likes of Richarlison, Doucoure, Ben Godfrey and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Lampard has inherited a core of players to build around. Everton, however, are lacking an identity. They have suffered managerial whiplash by rattling through so many different managers in such a short of time, and it’s time for Lampard to give the Toffees a sense of self again.
If the former midfielder must learn from mistakes, he must also continue the good elements he established at Chelsea. Everton are desperate for a manager to reshape them in a particular mould, any mould, and Lampard could do this by first looking to the homegrown talent already at the club.