Everton hoping Lampard is more than just a big reputation
Everton have appointed Frank Lampard as their new manager but life after Rafael Benitez began with two reminders of why he was so disliked in the first place. Aston Villa, going so well under Steven Gerrard who was Benitez’ former captain at rivals Liverpool, left Goodison Park victorious thanks to a goal assisted by Lucas Digne, the full-back who departed after a rather high profile fall out with the now departed manager.
The reality of Benitez’ relationship with Everton fans, perhaps with the benefit of hindsight for all involved, is that it was never going to work. Because of his six years at Liverpool, he was never going to get the almost universal connection he has always had when he’s been successful and the supporters didn’t see somebody who understood the Everton identity.
Both are incredibly important and, although there were glimpses of Benitez’s managerial quality and he could point to the fact he didn’t have money to spend, it was the latest in a line of questionable career decisions that ultimately didn’t work out.
It did feel like the fog was lifting at the weekend, despite the result. There could be no greater custodian picking the team than Duncan Ferguson, assistant to Benitez and his predecessor Carlo Ancelotti. He was in caretaker charge, as he was following Marco Silva’s sacking in 2019 for four games before Ancelotti arrived. But unwavering support for a legend who has been asked to stay on under new manager Frank Lampard will only take you so far.
Losing on Saturday showed the issues run much deeper than just Benitez, which supporters have always understood. Relegation is a growing possibility because results aren’t improving and that is the culmination of years of mismanagement under current owner Farhad Moshiri, evidenced further by the lack of obvious candidates to take the club on next prior to Lampard’s appointment.
Moshiri arrived with a fanfare in 2016, backed by millions. He appeared to bring an end to years of Everton punching above their weight, spending little but achieving a lot, particularly under David Moyes but early on under Roberto Martinez, too. The logic was sound, keep the watertight approach to recruitment, find good players and build a spirit which allowed them to take on richer rivals and win but combine that with a stronger hand in the market.
Six years on and it hasn’t gone to plan. The Toffees have lost the gritty charm that made Goodison a hard place to go and they’ve thrown a lot of money at trying to force it back, instead just going round in circles. Ancelotti and Benitez are both Champions League winners but neither came close to altering a culture of over-saturation and failure.
What happens under Lampard is difficult to predict. They have appointed managers who have impressed at Premier League rivals in Martinez, Silva and Ronald Koeman. Their initial approach for the former, given how it ended for him on Merseyside, sums up their issues in many ways.
In Sam Allardyce, they’ve had an English football stalwart and then came Ancelotti and Benitez, proven winners at the highest level. In Frank Lampard they have a manager used to competing at the top end of the division, leading Derby to the Championship playoff final followed by Chelsea and who must now prove that he has the ability to negotiate an increasingly difficult looking looking battle. Lampard is still supported by swathes of the media but mocked in many others who believe he has been given his opportunities on reputation alone.
He did well at Derby before the troubles Rooney faced and will always have the identity for his work incorporating the youth academy at Chelsea. Dwarfed by what Thomas Tuchel has achieved since perhaps but securing a top four spot in his first season while under a transfer ban was an impressive achievement and may have been what attracted Everton’s attention given the constraints they could be under with Financial Fair Play rules, which may now be easing after a tough summer.
Sacking Benitez was never going to put an end to Everton’s problems. They have fast become a case study for clubs who hope that spending lots of money can guarantee growth and development. Everton are entangled in a mess of their own making and must hope that Frank Lampard is the man to free them.
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