Lampard’s Everton have evolved with West Ham win a glimpse into his vision.
“I do think we are evolving our style now, yeah,” he said. “You could see what we are aiming for now. Probably compromise is the word for last season, I think I had to compromise (my) ideas (to stay up),
“For me as a coach it was a great experience to try and find a way that I hadn’t been used to in my coaching career at Chelsea and Derby. That was a foundation of spirit and fight but for me to stay in the Premier League you need more than that.” Lampard said after West Ham’s win.
If there’s one word to sum up Frank Lampard’s first eight months at Everton, it is “compromise”.
Plunged into a relegation battle at a club seemingly in freefall, the former Chelsea and Derby manager quickly had to put long-term aspirations of evolution to one side.
The sole focus was on keeping Everton in the division. On temporarily finding a way.
The principles that many associated with Lampard, such as high pressing, building from the back and midfield interplay were largely cast aside. Five at the back became the norm, as did a pragmatic approach.
From the point at which survival was sealed in the penultimate game against Crystal Palace, though, focus turned to what came next.
Seven games into the new season, Everton appear to be cast in a different image. In a summer window, there was a focus on adding the right characters; those with leadership experience and strong injury records. Athleticism and running power was also a requirement, given Lampard’s desire for a high-energy style.
It took Everton seven games to seal their first victory of the season — a 1-0 home win over West Ham last Sunday — but they are now five unbeaten in the league, a feat they last managed in December 2020.
How has Lampard managed to turn around Everton season?
The foundation of Everton’s improved recent form has been solidity.
“We’ve started to fix some things. We’re harder to beat, don’t concede so much”
They have the second-best defensive record in the league so far, conceding just six times in seven games.
It appears Lampard has succeeded in his goal of making them tougher to beat.
In James Tarkowski and Conor Coady, summer signings from Burnley and Wolves respectively, they have two new leaders in defence with a wealth of experience under the bag.
In the first match-winning of the season against West Ham, the most poignant moment of the opening 45 minutes was new captain Conor Coady’s impressive clearance from a Jarrod Bowen ball across the face of goal. Michail Antonio, lurking behind, would otherwise have had an open goal.
When Liverpool headed to the Goodison park for the Merseyside Derby this month. Many people expected one sided battle as usual, but utmost surprise the visitors were lucky to come out of the Goodison Park with a point.
The large part of the battle were Everton moving the game to more boggier terrain, pressing and counterattacking and threatening to claim all three points through Neal Maupay, Conor Coady or Tom Davies.
There was, perhaps, one major difference between this and the pallid surrender at Anfield in April, when there were two goals, 614 passes and a spectacular gulf in ambition between these sides. That day Everton’s midfield of Allan, Abdoulaye Doucouré and Alex Iwobi made 42 passes between them.
Here, by contrast, Iwobi made almost that many on his own, a metric that illustrates the extent to which Lampard has upgraded his options in the centre. For the past couple of seasons Everton have often looked a team petrified of the ball. Now they crave control.
The victory over West Ham United was not pretty, nor was it comprehensive. It was a hard-won three points in a game between two sides desperate to avoid being the one left in the bottom three on the final whistle. They were separated by Maupay’s moment of brilliance.
Lampard’s tactical acumen still may not be there like the likes Pep. However, his man management and eye for talent is superb. At Chelsea, Lampard fast-tracked the likes of Mason Mount and Reece James. He also ensured playing time for Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori. All four of these players are important to their current clubs.
Similarly, he made the right calls at Everton.
Let’s have a closer look at it.
The change in Iwobi’s game has been discernible. Employed as an attacking midfielder and oddly a right wing-back in recent weeks, Iwobi shows an ability to cut inside in possession and play a more dynamic role.
Iwobi had always been seen as a pacy winger by the likes of Arsene Wenger and Carlo Ancelotti. Lampard identified more in the player and transformed his role accordingly. This change allowed Iwobi to thrive in a way not seen as possible by his former managers. Moreover, Iwobi’s success gave Lampard the confidence to be tactically flexible in how he deploys Iwobi.
Gordon did get a lot of time toward the end of Benitez’s tenure. His ability to pick a pass and make timely runs were not evident under the Spaniard. Lampard provided Gordon the same level of freedom as more experienced players. Plus, Gordon had the same commitment from his manager to get a run of matches just like Mount at Chelsea.
On one hand, both Gordon and Mount were both clear-cut prodigal-level talents. Still, it takes a nurturing hand and superior man management to get the best out of young players. More often than not, highly touted young English players fail to reach the heights Mount has and Gordon appears headed for
The point is this: when this many players are improving at the same time, something has to be going right on the coaching side. Lampard may attract frequent ridicule for his faint veneer of salesmanship, the head-boy superciliousness, the carefully curated public persona. But there is clearly a talented coach in there.
Lampard’s evidently high opinion of himself is part of the appeal. Perhaps the reason Everton fans have warmed to him so readily is that they see in him a little of the effortless self-regard they crave for themselves.
This is not an easy fanbase to win over: Roberto Martínez lost them quickly, Marco Silva arguably never won them over, Benítez certainly never did. But slowly, and in small steps, Lampard is giving them a weekend team worthy of their weekday longing. The mockery and derision is gently going down. And right now, Everton fans are in and ready for the season.
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