This week’s View from the Gwladys comes from The Blue Room’s Mark Mosey as he talks Frank Lampard, the relegation battle and the upcoming clash with West Ham.
Frank Lampard has had two months in charge of Everton. What have you made of his time at the club so far?
Largely, there’s an acceptance of the situation and squad that Lampard has inherited and the challenges and weaknesses that both have brought. Adapting to Everton as a new manager has proven difficult in recent history, at far less precarious times, for much more experienced men – so I don’t think we can be too surprised by the hip-fire feel of some of Lampard’s decision making surrounding tactics and personnel.
His tenure has been incredibly difficult as expected, but he still holds a fair amount of good will from most Blues and an optimism that there is room for vast improvement should he achieve his main objective this season.
At the time of writing, the Blues sit three points above the relegation zone with a couple of games in hand on Watford. How many games do you think Everton need to win to make sure they avoid the drop?
In a disastrous advert for Premier League football, you’d say that somewhere in the mid-thirties from a points perspective is likely to be good enough this season. Based on that, three wins is likely to be enough for the Blues, coupled with the odd spirited draw. Realistically, whilst the “easier” fixtures are on the road, Everton have to look at their home games to inspire any form of positivity given the issues away from Goodison. There’s no doubt we have more talent than the sides around us, but Everton have a dark history of managing not to make their advantages count.
Of all the different elements that have gone wrong at Goodison this season, can you put your finger on one in particular that you think has led to such a poor run of results?
Of course there are large scale issues at the club reaching far beyond those that the fans see each weekend, and these have compounded season upon season to give Everton not only the league position that they currently hold but the feeling of impending doom that we all feel every day. Away from the failures at pretty much every level off the pitch, on it we are a side that even for our low standards has lacked any resilience in its most difficult moments.
Everton have the ability to morph into the most apologetic, heads-down version of themselves at any moment, and toil to pick themselves up when under pressure. The talent at our disposal becomes largely useless when you’re able to gift large periods of football matches to opposition teams, allowing them to finish us off in short spells. Weaker sides will continue to outperform the Blues by valuing not only their technical ability, but the character needed to succeed in tight contests.
There were great scenes in the stadium when Iwobi struck that injury time winner against Newcastle. Despite what happened in the cup, did you see enough in that match to suggest that Everton can make improvements in the final stage of the season?
The immediate aftermath of Newcastle was fantastic, but in the week leading up to Palace I feel many fans were aware that the victory was by no means a classic performance. So many games will rest on a knife edges as the season draws to a tense close, and it was refreshing to see Everton stand up in a moment like this – the talent that we speak about should be relied upon in these tight affairs.
Palace brought with it no positives. Experiencing an Everton that we all fear so much just days after a display of solidarity and hope summarised all that has been infuriating about this campaign. Emotionally, this team will continue to break you game by game. Home games following disappointing results on the road have shown that both the team and the fans are capable of leaving previous week’s failures at the turnstiles, isolating matches into their own independent sagas. The prospect of reflecting on previous results, or even that of gathering momentum, is currently suspended until August. That is your positive from Palace – we forget, simply because we must.
There is of course excitement about the prospect of moving into a new riverside stadium. Is that still at the forefront of Evertonian minds or has performances on the pitch pushed the new ground to the periphery?
Whilst we’re not ready to abandon all hope of progression off the pitch, the fabric of this club lies in competing at the top level of English football. There is a draconian irony to the Blues seemingly putting all of their Bramley Moore pieces together precisely at the moment of on-field disaster. Seeing the project emerge from the dock is invigorating, and the end product will surely be majestic – but it must house Premier League football in the future, and fears that it won’t from the start have certainly tarnished the excitement at present. A season-opening battle against fellow promotion hopefuls Barnsley does little to whet the appetite.
The club’s latest published accounts show considerable losses. Is that something that worries you for the future?
Whilst I try to align my focus with the footballing elements of the club and the team itself, Everton’s financial mismanagement in recent years has been difficult to ignore. Whilst there are mitigating circumstances for all clubs, it is obvious that poor decision making has amplified the issues for a football club that constantly snatches chaos from the jaws of progress. Reckless spending on below par players and managers alike has led us to consultations with the FA to avoid further sanctions – not quite the dream we all envisaged prior to Farhad Moshiri’s £500m spending spree.
Frank Lampard has been working with Dominic Calvert-Lewin during the international break to try and sharpen him up since his return from injury. How important to Everton’s prospects do you think the striker will be during the run-in?
Our predicament demands individual players to stand up and contribute game changing moments, and Dom is certainly capable of those. Fears from Blues fans will revolve around how his best form has undoubtedly come during Everton’s most free-flowing sides in recent seasons and that is not the version that we see before our eyes.
That said, in games such as Newcastle where results will rest based on the ability to put one chance away, there aren’t many others that Everton fans would turn to. The summer will bring questions regarding Calvert-Lewin’s future, but I doubt Lampard has allowed his thought process to stray that far ahead. The investment in Dom during the international break could represent Lampard’s wisest move of the season should the odd goal get us over the line.
It’s West Ham away on Sunday. The Blues record on the road this season is the worst in the Premier League. Do they have a chance of getting a vital win at the London Stadium?
There is simply no evidence to suggest that this is possible. To give themselves a chance, Everton must find an intelligent pragmatism that until this point has been truly absent. Frank Lampard must understand that to be relevant at decisive moments in matches, your side must be resilient enough to nullify opposition threats, and Everton’s naive approach to certain games in his tenure creates anxiety (most notably versus Tottenham).
An ironic “Moyes performance” for the opening hour will narrow the confidence gap in these sides, allowing Everton’s more decisive players to impact the Hammers going forward, but the former of these seems hard to come by. It will be important for Everton to understand that an ultra defensive approach does not necessarily mean pressing the panic button when the ball enters the penalty area.
Who has been Everton’s standout performer for you this season?
In a team of players who have largely played within themselves this season, Anthony Gordon has displayed a determination to display the style of player that he wants to be, and that Everton quite simply need him to be. His end product, as with all wingers, will forever be his point of scrutiny, but more importantly Gordon has displayed a maturity and a responsibility that extends far beyond his age and experience.
Gordon seems content to carry the weight of a club whose load should never have been allowed to rest on his shoulders. Our boy has become the man that we look to from the stands in frequent moments of desperation and prayer, and more often than not he has delivered. He dares to allow us to love one of our own footballers again. Everton’s challenge now will be to prove that they can provide an adequate platform for him to continue his development.
Finally, are there any particular players that you would like to see come to Goodison Park next season, to help the club get back to winning ways?
It pains me to think that the centre of midfield still poses one of our biggest questions. The conversation naturally delves down the uncomfortable avenues of admitting that Idrissa Gueye was a player who was simply never replaced – and whilst this “like-for-like” approach can seem lazy in a complex transfer market, the core of our side will continue to look flimsy until we achieve solidity in the form of a central holding midfielder with a good level of mobility.
Credit: Liverpool Echo