Frank Lampard's Everton future on knife edge ahead of FA Cup clash with Man United

Manager under pressure after poor run of results but the club must shoulder plenty of blame

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Frank Lampard on Friday night takes charge of his 42nd match as Everton manager. If he goes on to reach 50, he will have defied a number of gloomy predictions about the confidence held in him by his employers.

And if they are anything, his bosses are predictably trigger-happy. If Lampard makes it to the end of January still in charge of troubled Everton, he’ll have doubled the 22 matches his predecessor, Rafa Benitez was given.

If he makes it to the end of the season, he’ll have outlasted Ronald Koeman, the first of the six permanent coaches taken on by majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri since 2016. If Lampard is still there at the end of May, he will have at least matched the reign of Marco Silva, who was number three in the Moshiri procession of managers.

Also on that list is Carlo Ancelotti, unusual in that he quit rather than being told to go, tempted by the opportunity to go back to Real Madrid and win another Champions League.

Benitez has a European Cup on his managerial résumé, too, and to look at Silva expertly guiding Fulham towards a possible European place in their first campaign back in the Premier League, and at Koeman, embarking on a second stint coaching the Netherlands, it is hard to resist the conclusion that it is not so much that managers keep failing Everton but rather that the club again and again fails some very distinguished ones.

That may be little consolation to Lampard, if Friday's FA Cup tie at Manchester United proves to be another step on the way to an imminent parting of ways, but as a relatively young head coach, 44 years old and seeking to build an elite reputation, he may come to realise that a flawed episode in his career, at what is a notoriously poorly run club, will not necessarily count as such a damaging blot on his resumé.

But the pressure is on, intensified after a slovenly 4-1 defeat at home to Brighton on Tuesday that left Everton in the Premier League’s relegation zone and with just one point from the last possible 15.

Bournemouth 4 Everton 1 - in pictures

Lampard acknowledged on Thursday there had been “private conversations” within the club, adding candidly: “I’m not hunting around for any reassurances.”

The loss to Brighton “was a tough night,” he added, “there is no beating around the bush about that. I have to give some reality to the situation”.

The reality is that, almost a year after his appointment – which in turn followed a year since Lampard’s sacking by Chelsea, his first top-division job in management – Everton are a notch below where he found them in terms of league position. Benitez had been waved off with the club 15th in the Premier League.

As Lampard said: “I came here nearly a year ago and my feeling was that we were going in the direction of relegation. We managed to have an incredible time together to stay up.”

Richarlison was a major factor in Everton's survival last season but was was sold last summer to Tottenham. AP

Had Lampard seen Everton improve since a year ago? “Yes, I have,” he said, “in the way we have tried to take the squad forward. In terms of the league position? Not really. But the reality is that it takes time and work. It’s not an easy road and it comes with huge investment.”

Last season’s late scramble out of the bottom three, where Everton found themselves at the beginning of May, was indeed rousing.

But it also owed much to Richarlison, the Brazilian striker who was sold to Tottenham Hotspur that summer, partly so that Everton could meet the Premier League’s profit and sustainability requirements, rules designed to make clubs operate without reckless financial risk.

Under Moshiri, Everton have spent over £700 million on transfer fees; the yield has been one Europa League qualification, under Koeman, and three finishes in the bottom half of the Premier League table.

Everton fans protested against the club's board outside Goodison Park in July. PA

Richarlison is missed. Goals are scarce and the atmosphere at the tight Goodison Park easily turned angry. Against Brighton, even Dominic Calvert-Lewin, one of the best recruits of the past seven years, the most accomplished goalscorer on the staff but hampered this season by injury, was booed.

“It’s on to us to try to bring [supporters] with us,” said Lampard, who heard the derision directed across the team and towards the board on Tuesday. “We can only control what we can, and show a real work ethic in our performances.”

At Old Trafford, in a fixture that recalls the last time Everton won a major trophy – the 1995 FA Cup final finished Everton 1, United 0 – they are presented with an opportunity.

“The FA Cup is a competition of pride,” said Lampard. “We are up for the fight.”

Updated: January 06, 2023, 7:21 AM
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