Perhaps the most damning indictment of Frank Lampard’s Chelsea tenure was how quickly they improved after he departed. Almost overnight, the Blues were transformed from chaotic and clueless to one of the best-drilled sides in Europe. While that’s no doubt a testament to Thomas Tuchel’s capacity as a coach, it also reflects on the lack of such rigor and detail in Chelsea’s training prior to his arrival.
Under Lampard, Chelsea routinely committed the same errors in defensive transitions and defensive set-pieces with little to no sign of improvement. Furthermore, senior players such as Cesar Azpilicueta, Marcos Alonso, and Antonio Rudiger were relegated to the fringes of the squad towards the end of his tenure only to become vital cogs in Tuchel’s Champions League winning side. It appeared that from both a tactical and man-management perspective, Lampard had serious shortcomings as a head coach.
Within that context, there’s reasonable skepticism of how well Lampard can do at Everton. The club certainly haven’t made a reputation of sensible decisions in its recent past. The Rafa Benitez era — ending in the firing of Marcel Brands, the sale of Lucas Digne, and the fracturing of the club’s supporters and internal departments — was just one example of that.
The appointments of Ronald Koeman, Sam Allardyce, Marco Silva, and Carlo Ancelotti signaled no one clear direction for the club to follow.
Yet Lampard seems to merely continue that trend rather than stem it. At present, one wouldn’t fault Everton for opting for a safety-first option: someone who would ensure Premier League safety and stabilize the team in the short-term both on and off the pitch.
Perhaps the more long-term route would be to appoint a coach with a clear style of play and basing the club’s operation around trying to execute that style. Lampard sits uneasily between those categories: not tactically defined enough to be an ideologue, not experienced enough to provide comprehensive stability.
His first signings at Everton coach reflect both his and the club’s continued lack of a clear blueprint for success. Donny Van de Beek and Dele Alli are both supremely talented, exciting players who were under utilized at their respective clubs and relatively cheap to acquire.
And yet both are incredibly similar profiles of player, and it seems unlikely that they would thrive together in the same team. It’s the perfect metaphor for Lampard’s prospects at Everton: slivers of excitement and promise yet a general sense of incoherence.
There are perhaps some signs of optimism for supporters. Lampard’s brand of football is certainly more attractive than Benitez’s and could benefit the likes of Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison.
He also has an impressive track record with young players which bodes well for new signings Vitaliy Mykolenko and Nathan Patterson. He’s also brought in former assistant to Carlo Ancelotti, Paul Clement as his number two, which should bring more tactical dexterity to his coaching setup.
Ultimately, though, Lampard’s appointment is a gamble at a time when Everton needed something certain. Perhaps this was the best they could do in light of their recent years of mismanagement, facing the reality that Everton are a squad with a fractured fanbase, disjointed squad, and haphazard hierarchy.
Like Frank Lampard, Everton are desperately seeking solutions to their malaise. Whether they will be forthcoming remains to be seen.