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Frank Lampard wanted to be Pep Guardiola, but he’s realised he’s better as Jose Mourinho

May 10, 2022

HIRED on transfer deadline day in January with Everton in 16th place and increasingly concerned about the threat of relegation, Frank Lampard wasted no time in laying out his vision for the future of the Goodison Park club. “You need the qualities to play good football,” said the former midfielder when asked how his Toffees team would play.

“I want to see a team that are confident in possession, that can control games with possession, and be very exciting to watch at the top end of the pitch,” Lampard continued. “We need to be a team that’s very active… crossing and getting shots on goal and staying in the other half of the pitch. When you don’t have the ball, you must be aggressive.”

Since then, though, Lampard has changed his outlook. It might only be a temporary measure to avoid the drop, but Everton are currently playing with very few of the qualities their manager described only a few months ago. They tried playing an open and expansive game, but sank like a stone into the Premier League’s bottom three.

The watershed in Everton’s fight against relegation came in the Merseyside Derby when Lampard fundamentally changed his approach against a Liverpool team that would have ran amok had the Toffees opened up. Liverpool still won 2-0, but they way Everton frustrated them for much of the match gave Lampard and his players encouragement.

A similar approach and a switch to a back five with wing backs led to a crucial win over Chelsea and provided the platform for another important victory against Leicester City on Sunday. In both instances, Everton were compact and difficult to play through. They prioritised defence over attack, and it worked.

If Everton can preserve their place in the Premier League, Lampard might well look at this period as a formative spell in his managerial career. Until recently, it appeared the 43-year-old was keen to put himself forward as a dynamic, modern manager. Now, though, he is finding more success in the basics. Lampard wanted to be Pep Guardiola, but is actually closer to Jose Mourinho.

Widely maligned for a perceived lack of tactical nous in his time as Chelsea manager, Lampard has shown a greater understanding of the mechanics of the game in recent weeks. He has made smart and astute changes to his team and their set-up depending on the challenge in front of them.

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Against Liverpool, for instance, Everton pushed their wingers back to congest the wide areas, where their rivals often look to create. Against Chelsea, though, Lampard instructed his players to give Marcos Alonso and Reece James space in the knowledge that Thomas Tuchel’s team prefers to play through the middle.

At some clubs, Lampard’s recent methods wouldn’t be tolerated. Everton, however, have long embraced the traditional. This isn’t to say their fans are happy with dull football, but Goodison Park idolised David Moyes and Lampard could follow a similar path to the Scottish coach by packing his defence, organising his midfield and making good use of the wings.

There is, of course, still a lot of work ahead for Everton this season. They are far from safe despite their recent resurgence. The Goodison Park outfit need something from their next two matches against Watford and Brentford with a challenging fixture away to Arsenal on the final day of the campaign.

Survival could, however, act as a catalyst for both Everton and their manager. Lampard is learning on the job and has already demonstrated more introspection at Goodison Park than he ever did as Chelsea boss. That has turned the Toffees around in the short-term and it could have an even bigger effect in the long-term.