Everton need a successor to Delph next season

Everton (Photo by ANTHONY DEVLIN/AFP via Getty Images)
Everton (Photo by ANTHONY DEVLIN/AFP via Getty Images) /

Fabian Delph’s return to the Everton side was one factor that proved critical in securing that huge one goal win over Manchester United on Saturday lunchtime.

Ever since becoming the sixth permanent manager since Farhad Moshiri took over the club, Frank Lampard has found it difficult to find and pick a settled team as Everton manager.

This is due to the combination of getting used to a new set of players, injuries and poor form leading him to chop and change using different players and formations as he searches for his best starting eleven.

One of the crucial issues both for him and his predecessors is sorting out the midifield. I, along with a lot of Blues’ supporters have long been calling for a midfield three to give the best possible balance and protection for a very vulnerable defence.

Getting this area of the team right can help to improve both the defensive and also the attacking elements of the team and provide a solid foundation for sustained progress on the pitch.

Past managers have seemed reluctant though to use this formation, especially Lampard’s immediate predecessor Rafa Benitez.

The new boss has set his side up in this way a few times since taking his place in the Goodison Park hotseat.

But again, injuries disrupted his plans and he was also partly undermined by not having a natural deep lying defensive player or ‘number six’ available to make a three-man midfield work best.

There were actually three players in the squad at the start of the campaign all of whom on paper could have done that job: Fabian Delph, Tom Davies and Jean-Philippe Gbamin.

In typical Everton fashion the first two of them were injured by January when Benitez left and Lampard eventually took over leaving only Gbamin who was a natural for that role.

However, after having had an almost uniquely injury-prone time since he signed for the Toffees’ in summer 2019, he left on loan in the January window for CSKA Moscow until the end of the season.

The other obvious choice to fill this role is Brazilian Allan. The former Napoli man can operate in a deeper position but it doesn’t really suit his strengths.

Although he is a solid, ball-winning midfielder Allan also has fine technique and passing ability and instinctively likes to get forward when he can. Playing in a more advanced role and allowing him to get on the ball brings out the best in him as we saw against Manchester United.

To compound the problems of finding a suitable and balanced midfield, Abdoulaye Doucoure so often a key player for the Blues’ over the last year or so has seen his form collapse recently. So much so that Lampard dropped him from the starting eleven on Saturday.

He could do that though in part because Delph was finally fit again after another of his long stints on the sidelines.

The ex-Manchester City and England man has spent most of his time since signing on the treatment table and that together with some ill-advised comments etc haven’t exactly endeared him to Evertonians.

Delph though does have some some quality, particularly his ability to anticipate attacks, put himself in the right position to intercept and break them up and then distribute the ball with accuracy and intelligence.

He used all his nous and experience against United and provided that soild anchor at the base of midfield, which allowed Allan and Alex Iwobi to get forward and link up effectively with the forwards. It also helps free both full-backs to get forward much more confidently.

We’ve said this before but perhaps Lampard has finally found the ideal balance at last in midfield, assuming Delph stays fit and continues to play as assuredly as he did on Saturday.

And although this might seem like a leap from where this Blues’ side is, if you look at both the top two sides in the Premier League, they each have a player who has done this anchor type role extremely well.

Fabinio at Liverpool and especially Fernandinho at Manchester City have been outstanding for their respective teams over the past few seasons as they each pursue the top prizes.

It’s not just those teams though as many other Premier League sides employ a similar type of player. For example, Spurs with Pierre-Emile Hojgberg and his former club Southampton who have Oriol Romeu to do that job.

Strangly enough both the two at Liverpool and City are Brazilians and another player from that country who can do a similar job is Andrei Girotto, who is currently playing in France with Nantes.

I mention him because even if Delph stays healthy and carries on playing like this for the rest of the season (a big if) Everton will need a long-term replacement if they want to continue playing this way.

Academy graduate Davies has played this position before with mixed results and I’m not sure he’s the solution given his limitations.

I felt that Everton really needed to bring in a defensive midfielder in the January transfer window and assuming the Toffees’ don’t go down at the end of the season solving this issue will, or should be, right at the top of Lampard’s to do list in the summer.