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Frank Lampard is a risky appointment for Everton - but anyone else would have been a risk at such a messy club

The Chelsea hero begins live on Merseyside with a Cup tie against Brentford tomorrow.

Frank Lampard.
Frank Lampard.
Image: PA

EVERTON’S DYSFUNCTION IS such that even the sensible appointments make no sense for them. 

Rafael Benitez is no longer at the cutting edge of the game and his football has been left behind by the proactive football of Klopp, Guardiola and Nagelsmann, but his track record, attention to detail and ability to work unhappily but nonetheless effectively within financial strictures make him a more than serviceable appointment for any Premier League club outside the Big Six, aside from Everton. 

And yet it was Everton who appointed him. 

They then invested great faith in him, purging the club of those he didn’t get along with it including the Director of Football, the Head of the Medical Department, and Lucas Digne. And just after they gutted the staff to support the manager, they sacked the manager. His two January signings, full-backs Vitaliy Mykolenko and Nathan Patterson, didn’t make the squad for Duncan Ferguson’s game in temporary charge against Aston Villa. 

This is the sense of hopelessness general at Everton at the moment; a feeling that simply nothing works and nothing will work. It would at least be explicable if the club weren’t spending money, but they are, and they are spending it like it’s going out of fashion. 

Over the last five years, only Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal, Aston Villa and the Manchester clubs have had a higher net spend than Everton. Remarkably, Everton have outspent Liverpool in that period, and yet they’ve seen their rivals extend Anfield and then win the Premier League and Champions League. Everton, meanwhile, won nothing in that time and employ six permanent managers. (That’s ignoring the caretaker stints of David Unsworth and Duncan Ferguson, who’s done it twice.) 

Most of the money has been wasted. None of Bernard, Cenk Tosun, Cuco Martina, Davy Klaassen, Sandro, Fabian Delph, Andre Gomes, and Alex Iwobi have made anything like the impact they should have. Now they have somehow slid into a genuine relegation battle, and are 16th and four points clear of the drop zone. 

In that context, appointing Frank Lampard, a manager with no prior managerial experience of a relegation battle, is a big risk. But then again, everything at Everton is a risk these days. The club is so rudderless, with no clear philosophy or direction and seemingly little accountability to any reasonable set of standards, that few managers could be parachuted in while giving off the general assurance that they have this thing under control. 

Lampard doesn’t have to turn his attention to the Premier League basement battle until next midweek, and eases himself in this weekend with an FA Cup tie at home to Brentford. The freshness of his appointment will at least temporarily clear some of the acrid air from Goodison Park, and there will be a natural excitement among fans to see new signings Donny Van de Beek and Dele Alli. 

That’s if Lampard can fit them both in the same team. Both are players in the mould of the manager himself: attacking midfielders capably of attacking the penalty area cleverly and effectively. 

Lampard may be able to accommodate Van de Beek in a slightly deeper role, but striking a balance to his team will be essential, and he struggled to do exactly that at Chelsea. 

His Chelsea side were involved in several see-saw, high-scoring games: there was a 5-3 loss to Liverpool, a 4-4 draw with Ajax, separate 4-2 and 5-2 wins over Burnley and Wolves, and a 3-2 win against hapless Norwich. He was also working, particularly in his second season, with an exceptional group of players who Thomas Tuchel quickly shaped into European champions. 

Lampard has been saying the right things this week, admitting he needs results to stay in the job. This is a crucial job for him, to answer some of the critics from his time at Chelsea, which was flawed but not terrible, either.

He probably needed Everton more than they needed him. Everton simply needed someone, and at a club as messy as it currently is, Lampard is as good a bet as anyone. 

FA Cup Fixtures (KO 3pm unless stated) 

Friday

Man United vs Middlesbrough (8pm) 

Saturday 

Kidderminster vs West Ham (12.30pm) 

Chelsea vs Plymouth (12.30pm) 

Man City vs Fulham 

Peterborough vs QPR

Wolves vs Norwich 

Huddersfield vs Barnsley 

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Everton vs Brentford 

Stoke vs Wigan 

Southampton vs Coventry 

Crystal Palace vs Hartlepool 

Cambridge vs Luton (5.30pm)

Spurs vs Brighton (8pm)

Sunday 

Liverpool vs Cardiff (12pm)

Nottingham Forest vs Leicester City (4pm)

Bournemouth vs Boreham Wood (6.30pm)

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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