Frank Lampard has some very vocal defenders who have decided the blame lies with the Everton board and the Everton players. But not Frank.
To be absolutely Frank
We have to return to Frank Lampard and we have to return to the Daily Mail‘s Dominic King, who once wrote that even Pep Guardiola could do no better than be relegation candidates with that Everton squad.
Now Lampard has been sacked and King is back. And what a line this is from just the third paragraph:
‘A man with Lampard’s experience of football, from the clubs he has played for and managed, will have known that losing so many games so quickly had left him on a sticky wicket.’
The rest of us, of course – who have never played or managed Chelsea – had no idea that a run of six Premier League defeats in eight winless games would end like this. We just don’t have the experience.
Mediawatch had pointed out that Carlo Ancelotti literally finished tenth with Everton just two seasons ago but King has a rejoinder to that:
‘You might be startled by Lampard’s run of one win in 14 matches, stretching back to October, but Rafa Benitez had something similar last season (two wins in 15 before his exit). Carlo Ancelotti? Three wins in 13 in the spring of 2021 saw Everton blow a chance of Europa League qualification.’
Wonderful obfuscation there. Let’s look at the Premier League and let’s look at points.
Premier League points from Frank Lampard’s last 12 games in charge: 5.
Premier League points from Rafa Benitez’s last 12 games in charge: 5.
Premier League points from Carlo Ancelotti’s last 12 games in charge: 13.
Nope. Not the same. Not great form from European contenders but absolutely not the same.
There follows a whistle-stop tour through the reigns of Marco Silva and Ronald Koeman, both undone by poor results. But what King does not acknowledge is that Lampard was the very worst of them. By some distance.
There is clearly some truth in the notion that Everton’s dressing-room is not a united place – relegation candidates rarely are – but leaving Lampard with zero blame is ludicrous.
‘Aged 44 and six years retired, Lampard still had more quality than the squad with which he was working. It should never have been the case, not after the investment that has been made, but it explains why the spectre of relegation is looming large again.’
King is right that it ‘should never have been the case’ but for entirely the wrong reasons; if you appoint a manager purely on the basis of his footballing ability, do not be surprised if he is a better footballer than the players he coaches.
‘In the main, this squad stop (sic) responding.’
And whose responsibility is it to motivate those players? Everywhere we look there are reasons why Lampard failed at Everton and yet King is not interested in one of the most obvious.
‘To take them away from danger, Bielsa won’t just have to be a coach. He will have to be a magician.’
They’re two points from safety with 18 games to play, Mr King. Magic is not required, just basic competence.
The blame game stops everywhere else
But Dominic King has some competition when it comes to absolving Lampard of any blame. Step forward Chris Bascombe of the Daily Telegraph, who wrote a year ago that ‘Lampard will at least understand the immediate challenge facing Everton to save themselves’. All that experience you see.
We’re now told that ‘by the end, Lampard understood how difficult it was to get players to have the same professional pride he did as a player’ and ‘the fighting spirit Lampard briefly fostered during an emotional climax to last season was a distant memory in the past few weeks’.
What none of these Lampard defenders ever mention is tactics. They talk about heart and they talk about pride and they talk about fighting spirit, but those things do not make a good manager in the long term. Who has Lampard improved at Everton? That should form the basis of any defence of his spell in charge, not that the players were simply not motivated.
Once again we are told that Everton were doomed because they sold Richarlison and could not buy a ‘like-f0r-like replacement’. Which is basically the lot of every club outside the elite.
Brentford could not replace Christian Eriksen with a player of the same quality last summer and Brighton will not be spending over £20m on a new Leandro Trossard. Good coaches and good clubs make good choices.
‘To replace Richarlison’s energy and goals, Lampard considered Blackburn striker Ben Brereton Diaz, but felt it was safer to bank on top-flight knowledge.
‘He spent £15 million on Brighton’s Neal Maupay. After a few games, it was obvious why the striker was relatively inexpensive.’
He had scored 26 goals in over 100 top-flight games with Brighton. What the f*** was he expecting?
‘Dwight McNeil joined from Burnley for £20 million, but so far seems to be a player who looks more effective in training than on a match day.’
If only there was somebody employed by football clubs to ensure that training form translates to match days. It might just catch on.
One day at a time…
This might be the best ‘just hours’ yet from The Sun…
‘Man Utd stars back in training just hours after Arsenal defeat as Erik ten Hag gets stars primed for fixture MAYHEM’
It was literally the next day.
Oh and none of the players pictured actually started against Arsenal on Sunday.
So actually, Manchester United players who had not played in Sunday’s Arsenal defeat then trained on Monday, as per their actual jobs.
Those are the kind of crazy things you have to do when you are faced with literal MAYHEM.
Strike an (ex)pose
Over at the Mirror website, we are told – in the big football news of the day – that ‘Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher’s top-four predictions expose Liverpool and Chelsea woes’.
Pretty sure the Premier League table that shows them ten points behind Manchester United does that, fellas.