Everton and Lampard face crucial Crystal Palace test tomorrow

Everton (Photo by James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images)
Everton (Photo by James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images) /

After three straight Premier League defeats Everton host Londoners Crystal Palace tomorrow afternoon in a match that already seems like a must-win game.

Everton really need a repeat of last season’s dramatic 3-2 victory over the Eagles at Goodison Park, which ultimately secured the Toffees’ Premier League status.

Although preferrably not in the way they had to back in April, having to come from two down to secure the points with only a few minutes left!

The Blues’ defeat on Wednesday evening was much worse than the one goal scoreline suggested. Everton were poor overall, lacking real desire and seemed to accept defeat all too easily after Newcastle went a goal up.

In fact, it was a performance much more like the sort of abject efforts we saw all too often last season as the team tumbled down the table and into a relegation battle.

Manager Frank Lampard and Director of Football Kevin Thelwell have made some clear and positive changes and improvements since then.

The Blues’ defence is much stronger and more consistent and Everton don’t look like a side that will concede two or three goals very often, something they did regularly in the last campaign.

Midfield has also improved with the summer signings having done well overall alongside the rejuvenated Alex Iwobi.

One concern on Wednesday though was the performance of the midfield and in particular one of those signings, Amadou Onana, who was not in the game in the first half although he improved after the break. Could he be a player to drop out if Lampard changes formation?

However, as we all know the Toffees’ brains trust failed to bring in more than one new forward this summer and this is creating the most serious problem for the team.

Everton’s toothless attack haven’t scored a goal since Iwobi’s early strike against Manchester United and couldn’t manage a single shot on target in their last game at Newcastle.

Lampard has tried different variations with players and formations in order to improve the team’s struggles in front of goal and it hasn’t really worked with the Blues’ only netting more than once in a single game, the 2-1 win at Southampton.

As I wrote yesterday, although it’s not ideal perhaps now is the time for the manager to look at a pragmatic change to find a way of overcoming this miserable statistic.

One of the problems is that it’s more difficult to make a 4-3-3 work without the width and attacking outlets being provided by the full-backs. Losing Nathan Patterson to injury was a massive blow and his absence has coincided with the recent runs of defeats.

To be fair to Lampard he has been handicapped by not having his main striker available since the opening weekend of the season.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s incessent injury problems have been a blight on the last two campaigns and while I’m not his biggest fan, he is a proven goal-scorer in the Premier League.

It is a major frustration that Patterson is still out injured as his attacking outlet from the flank is sorely missed. His return I think will be key as his ability to put good quality crosses in from wide areas is exactly what a centre-forward like Calvert-Lewin thrives on.

With the former England international now finally fit again and having played nearly a full game on Wednesday, it makes sense to start with him and find ways to get the best out of him again.

So, as I suggested, the manager could revert to a 4-4-2 type formation and play Neal Maupay, his other main goal-scoring option, alongside Calvert-Lewin.

Everton need to try and overload opposing defences with as many attacking players as possible and hope this can help create more chances for the strikers to feed off. With a less brittle defence now they can afford to take a few more risks.

The other questions are who else could come into the side to augment and improve the team’s attacking threat?

The other player I think should come into the team now is Dwight McNeil. He also has the ability to put in great balls from the flanks, especially the left hand side, and his defensive work ethic means he can cover and protect his full-back too.

That full-back would normally be Vitalii Mykolenko. But, the Ukrainian has been in poor form reccently and anyway he is primariliy a defensive player not offering a great deal going forward.

Perhaps then, it might be worth giving the other left-back Ruben Vinagre a game. The former Wolves player was brought in as a reserve but he certainly has more natural attacking instincts and I think it’s time he got a chance to show what he can offer.

On the other wing the obvious choice might be Anthonly Gordon but he has been frankly awful in the last few games and has particularly struggled at Goodison Park.

Whatever he decides, Lampard has some big decisions to make and he’s got to try and ignite something more from this Everton attack or else I’m struggling to see how the Blues’ will beat a powerful and defensively solid Palace side tomorrow.