Frank Lampard is the new Everton manager and he must quickly get to work ahead of Monday's transfer deadline in order to stave off relegation fears; defensive improvements and midfield cover needed in final hours of window
Monday 31 January 2022 11:00, UK
After a chaotic, tedious and far too public search to replace Rafael Benitez, Everton have finally got their man.
Frank Lampard emerged as the stand-out candidate from the recruitment process, and is now tasked with saving the club from relegation.
The former Derby and Chelsea boss signs a two-and-a-half-year deal at Goodison Park having seen off Vitor Pereira and Duncan Ferguson in the final round of interviews. Out of management since he was sacked by Chelsea just over a year ago, he must waste no time in getting to work.
Everton are 16th in the Premier League having secured 19 points from 20 matches, with the side starting 2022 with three Premier League defeats. A 2-1 loss to embattled Norwich was the final nail in the coffin of much-maligned manager Benitez and came just days after the club allowed France international Lucas Digne to join Aston Villa.
With barely hours now left of the January transfer window, Lampard will have already assessed the playing squad and identified where improvements must be made. It sits atop his in-tray, and the only place he can start as Sky Sports looks at what awaits the new Everton manager.
One of Benitez's final acts was to sell Digne having signed Ukraine international Vitalii Mykolenko as his replacement, but the left-back was left out of the matchday squad during the Villa loss.
Mykolenko will require a period of adaptation that the international break will hopefully afford him, but Lampard will call upon the more senior members of his squad to take greater responsibility in addressing a leaky defence.
Lampard has spent the past year strengthening the options within his coaching team, and the 43-year-old is determined to convince Anthony Barry to leave Chelsea and join him on Merseyside as part of his backroom staff.
Everton have only kept three clean sheets in 20 league games - only Watford and Newcastle have managed fewer. Becoming more defensively organised is essential if the club are to pull away from danger. Despite facing 145 high turnovers themselves, the fifth-fewest of any side, they have conceded the most goals of any side from those instances.
Undermining such progress has been their inability to defend set-pieces. Everton have conceded eight goals from corner situations this season, scoring only three times themselves. Only Palace (-7) and Leicester (-6) have a worse differential on corners.
For all the improvement during the second period against Villa - where only one of 15 attempts was on target - it was a sign of the current malaise that Ferguson opted to remove senior members of the defence in Seamus Coleman and Michael Keane when victory was paramount.
The only way this record can improve is if Lampard identifies his first-choice back-line and has them working tirelessly on creating a better understanding of each other's game.
An area of weakness that cropped up regularly to derail Everton's encouraging start under Benitez was their inability to take games to their opponents from the first whistle. Far too often, Benitez was left expressing the same, tired sentiments about individual mistakes leaving the team playing catch-up in the second half.
The Toffees have conceded the first goal in each of their last nine Premier League matches, doing so in 15 games overall. Only Norwich and Brentford (16) have conceded the first goal in more games, while only Norwich (3) have scored the first goal in fewer games than Everton (4).
Everton have scored just five first-half goals compared to 19 after the break. Indeed, based on games finishing at half-time, they would be bottom of the table on 13 points having led just twice so far this season at the break.
Lampard will be aware the side he inherits have been losing at half-time on 11 separate occasions so far this term. The previous highest in a Premier League season was only seven - with 18 games still remaining.
Everton have earned just six points in their last 14 league games. Adjusted to three points for a win, their only worse points tally in a run of 14 league games within a single season was in 1950/51, when the side was last relegated from the top division.
It is a squad low on confidence, but the sight of a man who has won everything within the domestic game and across Europe will lift the mood.
Part of the reason why the team were unable to make strong starts has come down to the absence of key offensive personnel.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored 16 Premier League goals last season, while he already had three to his name in as many games this term before a series of relapses in his rehabilitation from a quadriceps injury has meant he is yet to return to his best.
When speaking as Chelsea boss in December 2020 ahead of facing Everton, Lampard said of the team's talisman: "What I do respect about Calvert-Lewin is that it feels like a career that he has really worked for. That sounds simple but it is not a straightforward pathway.
"Not everyone gets in their first team at 17 or 18 other than the Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen types of the world. Other players have to find different ways and now he has shown, last season and particularly this season, consistently he's an all-round striker. Every part of his game is a real threat.
"He has quite rightly got into the England team and he has settled into that so he is a major threat for Everton going forward. That's why he has scored so many goals, so fair play to him. It is a good challenge for England to have a few strikers competing and he has thrown himself into that question."
An area Carlo Ancelotti swiftly addressed in his first summer transfer window was the midfield. Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure were brought in to increase the competition and quality in place of Andre Gomes, Tom Davies and the injury-prone duo Fabian Delph and Jean-Philippe Gbamin.
Doucoure and Delph are now expected to be out for another four weeks. Doucoure was forced off against Villa due to a groin problem while Delph sustained a thigh injury during a training session. Davies is also recuperating from a knee injury.
It meant that the inexperienced Tyler Onyango was paired with Allan in the second half last weekend, and so Lampard must act quickly to put out the immediate fire of a powderpuff midfield. Benitez had already acknowledged that his team was short of a protective screen in front of his defence, and so the new manager must think smart to plug this vital gap.
Benitez admitted that the Premier League's profit and sustainability rules restricted Everton's transfer plans last summer. There is little wriggle room when fringe players are reluctant to leave - and will feel they have another chance under a new manager. Having operated skilfully under a transfer embargo at Chelsea, Lampard is already accustomed to having to think creatively in the market, and must do so again.
Everton have been lacking creativity in midfield all season, shown by how the three players who provided the most opportunities during 2020/21 have either been sold or have been unavailable - Digne (46), Gylfi Sigurdsson (44) and James Rodriguez (40).
Added to this was the sale of Bernard last summer to UAE club Sharjah FC in order to balance the books, and while Demarai Gray and Andros Townsend - two of Benitez's signings - have ironically been among Everton's better players this campaign, there has been a noticeable shortage of guile in between the lines.
Lampard has already acted to fill the creative void. Donny van de Beek wanted to join the club last summer and has agreed to sign on loan until the end of the season from Manchester United.
The 24-year-old has struggled to break into the first team at Old Trafford since a £39m move from Ajax in the summer of 2020, but his hunger to succeed matches the profile Everton need. Targeting players with a point to prove on loan was part of Lampard's final interview, and he has already acted on his promise.
After being a largely peripheral figure under both current interim Ralf Rangnick and former boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Lampard will allow Van de Beek to play in his preferred No 10 position. His new manager was one of the best the Premier League has seen at arriving late in the box, and the Dutchman will see this as the ideal opportunity to kick-start his career in England.
An area which is further towards the back of his in-tray, but nonetheless one Lampard will have championed during the interview process. Everton still boasts several exciting prospects.
Anthony Gordon has been a shining light in a struggling team, recently scoring his first two senior goals in the 3-2 defeat to Brighton. Still only 20, there is a fearlessness to Gordon but also a composure that belies his emotional connection to the club as an academy product.
You can tell he takes defeats personally, and Lampard will relish the opportunity of working with one of the club's brightest talents having developed a reputation for doing so both at Derby and Chelsea, with the likes of Harry Wilson, Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori, Tammy Abraham, Billy Gilmour and Reece James.
Ellis Simms has been allowed to go out on loan to Hearts while Nathan Patterson's arrival from Rangers this month also indicates that in spite of the immediate problems on the pitch, Everton still have one eye on the future.
With teenage striker Lewis Dobbin signing a new long-term contract until summer 2026, Jarrad Branthwaite and Onyango also developing, Everton's talent pool still runs deep. The immediate concern will be not to put too much pressure on their shoulders, but coming through such a period of adversity will hopefully stand them all in good stead for the future.
Re-connecting with this part of Everton's DNA, Lampard will be tasked with creating a more palatable identity that runs from the first team down through the academy. This is at the heart of the ongoing strategic review and is central to more longer-term thinking. Right now, Everton must find ways of winning matches.
Lampard is arriving not as a firefighter, but as someone who clearly believes he is capable of finally being the man around whom Everton can build a healthier environment in which good players can flourish, not regress.
The mood among Evertonians is one of fury, fuelled by a need for change. Before last weekend's 1-0 home defeat to Aston Villa, a plane flew over Goodison Park calling for long-standing chairman Bill Kenwright's departure, with the trailing banner reading '22 years of failure, Bill. Time to go'.
There was more anger on display after the final whistle as around 150 fans stayed behind to protest, chanting "Sack the board", "Kenwright, get out of our club" and "We want our club back".
Frustration has continued to be expressed since then, with a number of supporters congregating outside the Liver Building - where Everton's commercial offices are based - before another protest took place last Wednesday night outside Goodison.
It is far removed from when David Moyes arrived at the club nearly 20 years ago, coining his now iconic "People's Club" phrase at his unveiling. Lampard is older now than Moyes was then in March 2002, but recent times have left Everton more disconnected from their people than at any time in the club's history.
The new manager is walking into an extremely volatile situation, with fears of a first relegation in 68 years growing, but he can use an emotional fanbase to his advantage. Having the full backing of his supporters, Everton can still be a force against any side in the Premier League at Goodison.
Appointing someone who is universally accepted across social media is impossible, and should never be used as a gauge that is wholly true, but by opting against going down the route of Pereira, the club is finally listening to its people again.
There is a lot to fix, and forging a strong relationship with the board is an area that must get better. The club's hierarchy are working to bring about a more open connection with the fans, but Lampard's standing in the game can act as a strong conduit between the two.
Everton may now have a manager, but they still have no director of football, head of recruitment or scouting chief, with few currently trusting those at the top to make the right decisions and improve things.
Owned by Farhad Moshiri since 2016, the Iranian businessman certainly cannot be faulted for his financial backing, having already spent over half-a-billion pounds on transfers since his £200m takeover in 2016.
Last week he committed another £100m to Everton after increasing his stake to 94 per cent but he has consistently made poor decisions. Fans have voiced their objections to agent Kia Joorabchian - reportedly advising Moshiri - and Kenwright.
Speaking of a link, former midfielder Tim Cahill is returning in a senior executive role - which provides his contemporary Lampard with a wealth of experience about how the club operated so successfully under Moyes.
Cahill was recently chief sports officer at the Aspire Academy in the UAE and on the board at Belgian side KAS Eupen. The return of the 42-year-old, who has also completed his coaching badges, to Goodison is being heralded by supporters given his lofty status gained across eight seasons and 226 league appearances.
The new boss must not be undermined by outside influences - especially when it comes to transfer targets. It has been said that Everton have lost their identity during the Moshiri years, but building a relationship with a fans' favourite is a smart move. Lampard is already off to a winning start.
Sky Sports News' Kaveh Solhekol:
"Frank Lampard has all the potential to be a great manager of the future. I would think if he does accept the job, if he does become the next Everton manager it will be very exciting, but let's not underestimate he would have a massive job on his hands.
"He would have gone from the relative stability of Chelsea where Chelsea are owned by Roman Abramovich and are run on a day-to-day basis by Marina Granovskaia so that is a very settled structure and he would be going into a situation at Everton where there are different sort of factions in charge of the club.
"The fans are very, very unhappy so he does have a major job on his hands but of course, the first job that he has got is making sure that Everton remain in the Premier League, because speaking to Everton supporters, they are saying look the way this season is going there is a real danger it could end in relegation.
"The other problem Lampard has got if he does become the Everton manager is the transfer window is about to close. It closes on Monday, he hardly has any time to sign any players.
"Everton need reinforcements, especially in midfield. Is he going to have any time or has been told that players are coming in the next 72 hours? So make no mistake, a massive job for Frank Lampard, if, as looks likely, he does become the next Everton manager."
February 5: Brentford (H) - FA Cup
February 8: Newcastle (A) - Premier League
February 12: Leeds (H) - Premier League
February 19: Southampton (A) - Premier League
February 26: Manchester City (H) - Premier League, live on Sky Sports
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