Nathan Patterson return could be key for Everton and Frank Lampard

LEEDS, ENGLAND - AUGUST 30: Nathan Patterson of Everton in action during the Premier League match between Leeds United and Everton FC at Elland Road on August 30, 2022 in Leeds, United Kingdom. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)
LEEDS, ENGLAND - AUGUST 30: Nathan Patterson of Everton in action during the Premier League match between Leeds United and Everton FC at Elland Road on August 30, 2022 in Leeds, United Kingdom. (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images) /

While none of the Everton players shone in last night’s 1-0 defeat at Newcastle United it was a toothless attack that was most starkly exposed, again.

The lack of creativity and goals in Frank Lampard’s Everton team has been a feature of the whole campaign so far with the Toffees’ managing just eight goals in the Premier League. Only Aston Villa, Nottingham Forest and Wolves have netted fewer times.

This problem is, as previously stated, a culmination of years of wasted spending compounded by last summer’s failure to add more than just one forward in Neal Maupay.

Until their recent run of defeats, the Blues’ had largely gotten away with this lack of punch up front, especially when they secured narrow one-goal wins over West Ham and Southampton due in large part to their defensive resiliance.

However, there is a real danger that this lack of attacking threat is going to make life too easy for Everton’s opponents, something that was underlined in yesterday’s loss on Tyneside.

Newcastle didn’t play brilliantly, they didn’t have to as the Blues’ were off-colour as a whole and once the Magpies had taken the lead it always looked enough for them to secure all three points.

There never seemed any serious danger to Newcastle of the away team finding an equaliser let alone winning it, and they played as though they knew it as well.

Indeed, so too did Everton with what seemed like a worrying lack of self-belief that was reminiscent of last season.

Lampard had decided to go with Dominic Calvert-Lewin up front as part of his attacking three. He didn’t though partner him with Maupay, something I felt he should have done.

Inevitably, Calvert-Lewin wasn’t very sharp and looked off the pace missing several half-chances to try and score.

Both the other forwards Demarai Gray and especially Anthony Gordon were poor as well and this compounded the impact of Calvert-Lewin’s rustiness.

Gordon’s form at the moment is a serious concern. The young winger has been progressively more and more average in his performances and seems to be suffering from something akin to the infamous ‘second season syndrome’.

But while most attention regarding Everton’s lack of goals will focus on the forwards, one player who’s return will I think make a big difference to the Toffees’ attacking threat, is Nathan Patterson.

The Blues’ run of defeats has conincided with the young Scottish full-back’s latest absence through injury.

When he was in the side during the first weeks of the season, Patterson was a revelation showing the pace and attacking instincts that we had heard so much about together with very solid defensive work too.

His return will provide the Toffees’ with the sort of natural width they have lacked since his injury. Seamus Coleman is well past his best now and Vitalii Mykolenko, always more of a defensive full-back, has also been in very average form in this campaign.

Although I’ve always been an advocate of a 4-3-3 type formation as the optimum tactic, perhaps Lampard needs to re-consider how to get the best out of his young full-back to help support and improve the attack in the short-term.

Patterson loves to get down the flank and put in balls from out wide something that few other Everton players do.

The other one who does is Dwight McNeil. The former Burnley player hasn’t found his feet properly since his move to Merseyside.

I wasn’t convinced at the time he was the right signing and I would have preferred the Blues’ spent that money on another forward.

However, McNeil does have a very good left foot and real technical ability and he certainly can put good quality crosses in from out wide, something he did regularly at Turf Moor. I’t’s arguable he hasn’t had the right sort of opportunity yet to show what he can offer.

Having natural width and players who like to put balls in from the flanks is also probably the optimum approach to get the best out of Calvert-Lewin.

It’s certainly what Rafa Benitez was trying to do when he took over as manager and brought in Gray along with Andros Townsend. And, while we might not want to admit it, for a while it worked.

I still don’t think this is the long-term solution for how Everton should look to play, but perhaps for the moment pragmatism must again prevail.

Anyway, until the January transfer window the Blues’ have very few options and simply have to find a way to score more goals now or their season could be unwinding. Finding a way to get the best out of their England international centre-forward seems the only way to do so.

So, maybe Lampard (who has shown a pragmagtic willingness to adjust) should consider moving to a 4-4-2 with Patterson, when he returns, and McNeil lining up on the right and left of midfield respectively.

This would have the additional advantage of still providing defensive and ball-winning support to both the centre midfielders and the back four (perhaps with Mason Holgate at right-back) as these two players are hard-working defensively.

Up front I think he should then play Maupay alongside or behind Calvert-Lewin. Let’s be honest he hasn’t got many other viable alternatives.

This isn’t a solution that I’m certain will work, but I do think Patterson gives the Toffees’ a vital outlet and will take some of the pressure off the other attacking players. And Everton look a much better balanced team with him in the side.

Of course, the ex-Rangers player isn’t going to be available for Saturday’s clash with Crystal Palace and Lampard will have to find other ways to improve his team’s attacking threat in what feels like a must-win match. But, then that’s what managers get paid and paid well to do.