Everton and Lampard are out of road but Evertonian inertia runs deeper
Nothing is changing at Everton. The team isn’t improving, there seem to be no signs of any new players arriving, and the owner & manager seem paralysed.
Perhaps this will turn out to be the weekend when Frank Lampard ran out of road with Everton.
Defeat at West Ham United, not a team that have been setting the Premier League alight this season themselves, is their sixth in their last seven matches and with no visible improvement in the team’s performances on the horizon the most urgent question surrounding Goodison Park after such a pallid showing is surely now for how much longer this can be tolerated.
Everton increasingly seem to be acting as though they’re in the grip of some form of sporting paralysis. The team are not improving. Results are not improving. No money has been spent in the transfer market trying to improve this state of affairs. The manager, who just isn’t improving the team in any significant way, is still in his position. Nothing seems to be changing at Everton, and their results over the last three months have been proof in themselves that this is a club at which a lot of things need to change, and very urgently.
Every time Everton play, there’s the same old cycle playing out in front of you again. The same players performing the same pas de deux on tranquillisers. And this is why the fans are so angry. Everybody knows that there are 20 teams in the Premier League, and that relegation will befall three of them come the end of the season. But when the gaps are obvious and nothing is apparently being done about anything, and when the club has been playing at this level for almost seven decades, when the middle-aged and older can still remember them being the champions of England, then the rawness of the affrontery is both understandable and inevitable.
None of this is to condone those who surrounded their players in the car park after last weekend’s home defeat to Southampton, of course. But the protests of last weekend did seem to represent a turning point in the feeling of hopelessness that has descended over their season and of the air of toxicity hanging over the club, a stench that has become increasingly noticeable over the course of this season.
With the fact that there would be protests already common knowledge, the club issued a statement prior to that match saying that club directors would be staying away from Goodison Park from the match on security grounds. Merseyside Police subsequently issued a statement saying that, “No threats or incidents were reported to police prior to the game”. But the issues aren’t the responsibility of the players
There were further banners in the away end at the London Stadium as what should have been a taut relegation six-pointer crumbled for Everton in the space of nine first half minutes. The first half could be best described as ‘pedestrian’ for its first 20, but when West Ham upped the pace and started to turn the screw a little, Everton simply had no response. Jarrod Bowen had scored two Premier League goals for West Ham this season. It took him less than ten minutes to double that tally with two goals that were gifted to him by a gaping space at the heart of the Everton defence.
Everton did finally respond when Alex Iwobi hit the base of the post shortly before half-time, but this was as much a demonstration of West Ham’s own defensive porousness as anything else, and it was certainly an isolated moment in a half during which Everton’s influence was minimal. By the time the half-time whistle blew, they were bottom of the Premier League table.
Frank Lampard made substitutions at half-time, but to call these ‘changes’ would be slightly misleading. Midway through the second half, West Ham got in through the left-hand channel and Emerson hit the Everton crossbar via Jordan Pickford’s fingertips. How quickly was this near-miss lesson forgotten? Approximately twenty seconds. From the resulting corner Everton’s creaky central defence was pushed wide open again and Auguerd headed over from close range.
On the sidelines, Lampard stood and glowered. In the stand, Bill Kenwright and Farhad Moshiri, looking slightly as though he’d been made up for the occasion by Jim Henson, sat motionless. The latter was at his first Everton match since November 2021. At the full-time whistle, the cheers of relieved West Ham supporters – this was their first Premier League win since the 24th October – largely drowned out the booing of the travelling supporters, but it seems reasonable to assume they were loud. At least Southampton dropped back below them on goal difference by the end of the afternoon.
Everton showed pretty much no improvement against West Ham. This was their sixth defeat in seven games, and five of those six defeats have come against teams in the bottom half of the table. Everton are sliding from view, and no-one in a position to do so has really done anything. Small wonder there’s been this enormous cri de couer from the supporters.
But while the calls for change are understandable and valid, what exactly is to change? Even if we can all agree that Frank Lampard and Everton isn’t working out, can changing a small number of coaching staff really make that much of an appreciable difference to the team’s performances? Because there’s only a week and a half until the end of the January transfer window, and any incoming manager would be stuck with exactly the players that Lampard has had if such a decision isn’t made soon. The clock is ticking.
The only thing that we can say for certain is that something has to change. Everton, for whom broadcasting money made up 63% of the club’s total revenue in the 2021/22 season, who lost their ‘main sponsor’ less than a year ago, who are in the middle of building a new stadium and who have thrown away hundreds of millions of pounds on some terrible transfer business, cannot afford for things to not change and to be relegated from the Premier League. It now seems inevitable that Frank Lampard has run out of road at Everton. But sacking him and him alone will not be enough. Change needs to be wrought the whole way through Goodison Park before it’s too late.