Everton fans made clear who they wanted as the club’s new manager.
With the relatively unknown Vitor Pereira reportedly on the brink of taking over, Goodison Park was tagged with a graffiti message that read: “Pereira out, Lampard in.”
Having been ignored in the appointment of Rafael Benitez, the supporters got their way and Lampard was appointed. It might have been better had they been ignored again.
Lampard has done nothing to guide Everton away from trouble. In fact, the Toffees find themselves in a stickier situation now than at any other stage of the season with Sunday’s 2-1 defeat to West Ham leaving them just three points above the drop zone.
The fear of relegation has never been greater.
Nine defeats in 11 league games (six in eight under Lampard) have sent Everton into free-fall.
The Merseyside outfit could hardly be in worse shape. Offensively, they are reliant on individual ability to create opportunities with no discernible pattern to their attacking play.
This is illustrated in their average of just 0.50 expected goals (xG) per Premier League game under Lampard.
Defensively, they are just as weak, conceding an average of 1.85 expected goals against (xGA) since the change in manager. Individual errors, like the one that led to Jarrod Bowen’s winner on Sunday, have cost Everton, but Lampard has failed to implement a system to guard against these lapses.
Bowen’s goal provided a demonstration of the fragility of Everton’s structure. Michael Keane is most commonly tasked with bringing the ball out from the back (only Abdoulaye Doucoure has averaged more passes than Keane per Premier League match this season), and he did this a number of times against West Ham.
However, when a poor touch by Alex Iwobi gave West Ham possession, Keane was left high and dry. No protection was offered by the full backs or a midfield anchor dropping deep to maintain the structure.
Almost immediately, West Ham had a three-on-three situation with the two full backs stretched wide.
The way Lampard set up his midfield set up Everton to play in quick transition with Iwobi selected as part of the central three to carry the ball forward and create overloads. However, this approach played into West Ham’s hands with the home team most effective when they have space to burst into – Everton gave them plenty of space.
Of course, many predicted Lampard’s Everton would be defensively vulnerable. After all, this is how Chelsea played under the former midfielder, but at least his Blues side carried a threat in the opposition half.
His Toffees side only appear muddled in their thinking when they reach the final third.
Only six teams (Norwich, Burnley, Wolves, Crystal Palace, Watford and Brentford) have averaged fewer shots per game than Everton (11.8) so far this season.
Under Benitez, the Toffees were somewhat one-dimension in their plan to get crosses into the box, but at least this gave them a funnel into the box. Now, Everton are completely toothless.
Slow lateral passing did little to unsettle West Ham, especially with Everton so loose in possession throughout the match – countless passes missed their target. Iwobi did indeed carry the ball forward at times, but there wasn’t much of an outlet ahead of him.
When Everton had control of the ball, it was without any purpose. When they lost it, there was no safety net.
Richarlison got in behind once or twice, but his movement only resulted in low value attacking opportunities. Dominic Calvert-Lewin was starved of service while Demarai Gray was too predictable in cutting inside without a decoy run on the outside to draw defenders away from him.
Everton’s xG of 0.70 at full time reflected their underwhelming attacking display.
Keane’s red card certainly didn’t help the visitors to the London Stadium. Everton have disciplinary issues with the Toffees reduced to 10 men in each of their last three Premier League outings.
Lampard might point to this to explain his team’s lack of structure, but this was already evident in Everton’s performance against West Ham before they had a man sent off.
He can be grateful that Norwich, Burnley and Watford (the three teams below Everton in the table) are so poor, but his team’s run-in is cause for concern.
The midweek trip to Turf Moor to face Burnley could be a season-defining fixture while difficult games against Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal mean points might be hard to come by between now and the end of May.
There is no denying Everton have the individual quality to climb the Premier League table, but they have a manager with no plan on how to harness his players.
Lampard’s 4-3-3 shape suggests he wants his team to play a fluid game, but that fluidity is costing the Toffees valuable points. It could ultimately cost them their place in the Premier League.
Source: Graham Ruthven