What should be Everton and Lampard’s priorities now – part 2

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 22: Everton manager Frank Lampard issues instructions during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Everton at Emirates Stadium on May 22, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 22: Everton manager Frank Lampard issues instructions during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Everton at Emirates Stadium on May 22, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images) /
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We’ve looked in some detail at some of the responsiblities of the board and manager Frank Lampard’s role in trying to turn around a disasterous situation for Everton. So, what are the other main priorities for averting a repeat of this dreadful past season?

Everton need more pace and athleticism in the team

This is another issue that has cropped up time and time again with this underperfoming and disjointed squad. The Blues’ first teams have consistently lacked enough pace, power and athleticism right throughout the side for a number of seasons now.

The Toffees’ have been left behind by other teams who have moved towards playing with greater size and athletic presence and this issue has been exposed again and again with the Blues’ being bullied and overwhelmed in the middle of the park far too often.

This problem makes it much harder to play more possession football and get on the front foot, something Lampard rightly wants to do.

Just go back to Thurday night for an example when Everton faced a much bigger and more powerful Crystal Palace team and nearly went down to another defeat, partly for lacking the strength and power to compete with the visitors.

This issue is also particularly exposed in one part of the team’s play that has become a huge problem: defending set-pieces.

While decisions about what sort of system to use whether that be man-marking or ‘zonal’ marking at set-pieces does abviously have an impact, the simple lack of enough big bodies in the mix doesn’t help the Toffees’ defend these crucial corners and free-kicks.

It’s also true that the Blues have lacked two of their best players in the air for much of the campaign with both Yerry Mina and Dominic Calvert-Lewin spending large portions of this season on the treatment table.

Had they both been fit all season long, then Everton would surely have had a better record of defending set plays and that would have made a significant difference to their points total this season.

I’m not sure exactly how many goals the Blues’ have conceded from set pieces overall this season but it’s at least in double figures and it’s proved very costly.

However, it’s not just in terms of defending corners and free-kicks where the Toffees’ need more height and strength.

If you look at many Premier League sides, particularly at the top end of the league, they have a preponderance of powerful, atheltic players most especially in midfield.

Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham for example all have plenty of athletic options in the middle of the park. Even Manchester City, although not as obviously powerful a side as those, have players such a Fernandiho who has been such a huge and key presence in their midfield.

And, it’s not just those teams who outmuscle the Blues’ so often. As well as Palace who we’ve mentioned, teams like Southampton and even relegated Watford were physically stronger than the Toffees’ in the engine room. That has got to change if this team wants to compete consistently in the modern Premier League.

This issue was something that Carlo Ancelotti tried to address bringing in both Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure to add power and physicality to a flimsy Everton midfield, which had lacked energy and bite since Idrissa Gueye had departed.

It worked for a while, especially at the start of the 2020-21 campaign, and both have had good spells and put in some excellent performances since then.

But now Allan is in his early thirties and it looks very likely he will be moving on this summer as Lampard seems willing to listen to offers for the Brazilian, with Lazio rumoured to be one of his potential suitors.

Meanwhile Doucoure’s form has gone badly downhill this season and after starting superbly well he’s been a shadow of the rampaging, powerful presence we saw back in August and September. We saw something similar last season too. Maybe he can rediscover that form again, I don’t know.

Both players are also injury-prone (but then isn’t almost every Everton player!) and with Andre Gomes also possibly leaving, fresh blood in the middle of the pitch looks a major prioirity.

In addition to the requirement for greater strength and athleticism in the team, there is also a need for more pace in attack, particularly if key players leave the club.

At the moment Everton have three forwards with real pace in Richarlison, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Demarai Gray. Anthony Gordon is quick too but perhaps not blisteringly pacey.

It does look more and more likely that Richarlison will probably leave Goodison this summer and Calvert-Lewin may also follow him so that will leave a big gap that has to be filled somehow.

I think Everton need to be more open and creative to find replacements (like the club were when getting Gray in last summer) and perhaps even look in the Championship for players with the pace and versatility to give them that additonal pace and attacking threat.

This will be especially important if Lampard wants to play a counter-attacking game sometimes – as his recent tactics have indicated – as he will need the outlet of pace to stretch the opposition, something this team has also lacked at times.

Then he could set up a team with a deep-lying defensive midfielder to screen the back four and two attacking full-backs providing width while allowing the other two midfielders to get forward, support the front three and help provide that forward press, or drop back to provide additional defensive cover.

This would enable the team’s centre-backs to sit deeper and also allow Lampard to play either a more positive, front foot game or a counter-attacking style without a constant chopping and changing of formations and players.