Everton’s 3-2 win over Crystal Palace at Goodison Park on Thursday clinched Premier League safety. The club’s almost 70-year run in England’s top flight continues into the 2022/23 season.
Quite frankly, it would likely be over without Frank Lampard being appointed as manager. Lampard faced constant critiques for his job performance at Chelsea. At Everton, he showed an ability to dig in and perform under adverse circumstances. Now, a platform for further growth exists.
After five years of disastrous management, Everton are back on track. Critics derided Lampard for his work at Chelsea. Pundits claimed he was not ready for a managerial role at a ‘big-time’ club. Nearing the conclusion of the 2021/22 season, Lampard provided the Toffees something to build on. It is the first time that sentiment rolled into Goodison park since the big-spending Fareed Moshiri era started in 2017.
Under David Moyes, Everton consistently did more with less. It established itself as the “biggest” side outside the extremely wealthy sides. Everton’s history holds more seasons of top flight soccer than any other club in a top European league. A new transfusion of cash arrived to transform the club. It accomplished that task, only for the worse.
The UK media loved to point out Everton’s high net spend over the last few seasons. In fact, it surpassed local rivals Liverpool.
Precious little of the above-referenced spending has been made with a philosophy in mind. Marcel Brands ran Everton’s football side. He made personnel decisions. Oftentimes, he hired head coaches for vanity purposes who used players as they saw fit. Sometimes, coaches did have an impact on transfers. For example, Marco Silva had a say on the transfer of Richarlison to Everton. This was actually one of the few good pieces of business from Everton. Still, more often than not, Everton’s dealings were a mess.
Brands’s strategy seemed to be to find the sexiest name possible on the transfer market and overpay for that player. It did not matter what the club needed. Everton made a business of buying former Barcelona, Manchester United, Arsenal, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Spurs players.
The same applied to managers.
Marco Silva was an intriguing hire in 2018. Ultimately, he didn’t improve the squad. Following Silva’s sacking in November 2019, Everton failed to pursue former player Mikel Arteta. He could be there to build a project, but instead Arsenal signed the former midfielder. Rather, Everton wanted a big-name hire.
Carlo Ancelotti and Rafael Benitez may both be UEFA Champions League-winning managers. However, they were not good fits for Everton’s aims. Instead, Ancelotti and Benitez fit the philosophy of the club for a visible name. This is irrespective of style or long-term build.
Ancelotti had some successes last season, highlighted by a win at Anfield. Yet, by the end of the campaign, Everton played some of the most dire soccer in the division. Conservatism and safety reigned even under a perceived elite manager.
That situation worsened under Benitez. He inherited an expensively assembled side but immediately ran off James Rodriguez.
The season started decently enough. By November, it was clear Benitez was the wrong guy for the job. A change was imminent with injuries mounting and young players not developing. Even worse, Benitez ran off Lucas Digne, the club’s best player whom Aston Villa gladly took off the Toffees’ hands.
Brands left the club in December after a dispute with Benitez. Yet, Everton sacked the former Liverpool manager weeks later. This is a further representation of the dysfunction at Goodison Park. The replacement, Lampard, took flack from the UK media. A legendary player who managed Chelsea, on surface level he got the job based on his name.
In fact, he proved to be the right choice.
Arrival of Frank Lampard
Lampard’s tactical acumen still may not be there. 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.
Even more significantly perhaps, he assembled a top backroom staff led by Paul Clement. Perhaps this contributed to his ill-fated Chelsea tenure.
Let’s have a closer look at Lampard’s biggest calls and successes.
How Lampard managed Everton to Premier League safety
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.
Three midfielders at all times
A key to Lampard providing Everton with Premier League safety is the tactical difference.
Lampard made some odd formation decisions in the first month after taking the Everton job. When the Toffees went to a three-at-the-back formation with two midfielders in a 3-4-3, opposition routinely carved Everton open. The 4-4-2 did not work much better. A reversion to the 4-3-3 and at times during matches a unique 3-2-2-2-1 (or 3-6-1 if you prefer) has given the side the stability to minimize goal opportunities the other way even if the goal threat is not always potent up top.
A real fighting spirit
In Lampard’s Chelsea tenure, he often looked angry or distant on the touchline when things went wrong. Backed by a ruckus Goodison crowd or loud traveling contingent, this changed with Everton. Lampard seemingly fed off his club’s supporters and imparted a fighting spirit in his players.
Previously, Everton got down because of the malaise around Goodison. Now, the players and coaches use energy to their advantage. In the end, the crowd and support lifted the Toffees over the line. That passion and change in attitude of the fans was largely down to Lampard’s management.
Confidence in Pickford
Previous Everton managers have toyed with the idea of pressuring, or even sitting, England’s number one. Not Frank Lampard. As a result, Pickford has, in the last two months, turned in some of the best shot-stopping performances of his distinguished career.
Playing Mykolenko at Left back
Ukranian Vitaliy Mykolenko arrived from Dynamo Kyiv in Janaury as a direct replacement for Digne.
Between Everton’s relegation fight and the war in his homeland, Mykolenko starting was a risky call for Lampard. In fact, he did not start the Ukrainian until his second month in charge.
However, the young player showed more than capable of excelling in the Premier League. Again, this man management decision by Lampard was spot on.
As the relegation fight intensified, much of the media decried Everton’s reckless spending and the Lampard hire.
The media is correct on the former. They were dead-wrong on the latter. Everton finding safety in this Premier League campaign was all about strong management from Lampard. Making difficult, but correct, calls in terms of player selection and tactics guaranteed another year in the English Premier League.
PHOTO: Gareth Copley/Getty Images
200+ Channels With Sports & News
- Starting price: $33/mo. for fubo Latino Package
- Watch Premier League, World Cup, Euro 2024 & more
Many Sports & ESPN Originals
- Price: $9.99/mo. (or get ESPN+, Hulu & Disney+ for $13.99/mo.)
- Features Bundesliga, LaLiga, Championship, & more
175 Premier League Games & PL TV
- Starting price: $4.99/mo. for Peacock Premium
- Watch 175 exclusive EPL games per season