Everton finds itself in one of the most precarious positions in the Premier League table: a relegation battle. The club appointed Frank Lampard as its manager at the end of January, hoping that they could get away from Rafa Benítez’s negative brand of football and start playing a more attractive and winning style.
However, Lampard’s first 10 league games in charge yielded seven losses, with a humiliating defeat coming at the hands of Burnley, who are direct rivals when it comes to the drop. Fortune favors the brave, so how can Everton escape relegation?
Build on Big Wins
Although Lampard had some patchy form initially, there were some significant results, which would usually galvanize a squad. However, even though they toppled Newcastle and Manchester United, they couldn’t build on that form and put a decent run together. Nevertheless, after back-to-back wins against Chelsea and Leicester City, Everton have shifted to third favorite in the Premier League relegation odds at +12/1 to join Watford and Norwich.
Lampard, who has only managed clubs at the upper end of their tables in Derby and Chelsea, wasn’t used to being in such a dog fight. Lampard dictated his style by playing out from the back, pushing full-backs high and looking for openings through positive play. Being a bottom club means that you won’t see as much of the ball and at the latter end of the season, it’s about getting results, not about scoring the perfect team goal.
Prepare for Opponent
In particular, Lampard’s willingness to abandon a set style of play and adapt to his opponent has been apparent since the Manchester United game. He concedes possession and uses the pace and strength of Richarlison to break on the counterattack. Supplemented out wide by the speed and industrial work rate of Anthony Gordon and Demarai Gray, Everton has found a way to wreak havoc on teams without having much of the ball.
Recently, Lampard has also shifted to playing a back five. Everton can sit in a low block with the extra layer of protection and ensure they don’t concede. Shoring up your defence is essential for Premier League survival; if teams can’t score, at least you’re set up to take a point from the game, which is essential. However, Everton actually have enough quality up front where they can score against teams through sheer talent. Lampard’s squad isn’t bad; he just hasn’t had a preseason to implement his ideas within the team and really impose a philosophy. If they stay up, Lampard can start to create something special next year.
When it comes to the relegation zone, the bottom two are usually set at this stage of the season. However, this section of the table is exciting around this time because of the two to three teams that could occupy that final relegation spot. That extra incentive when their survival is on the line makes a huge difference in the last few games.
Wins against Leicester and Chelsea were excellent results, but they can’t afford to let their focus slip as Leeds and Burnley will punish that otherwise.