Everton’s dismal 3-2 defeat by relegation rivals Burnley on Wednesday leaves Frank Lampard’s side facing a major battle to extend their 70-year stay in the top division of English football. Maxwel Cornet’s 85th-minute goal completed a dramatic comeback by the hosts and left them within a point of the Toffees, who linger ominously above the drop zone.
Lampard was perhaps naive in replacing Rafa Benitez in January. Everton have won just twice since the Chelsea icon took charge, losing six.
It is the kind of form that diminishes confidence and drags a team towards the bottom three. Burnley, meanwhile, will take plenty of momentum from a win over a relegation rival, with boss Sean Dyche damningly revealing after that he told his players that Everton “don’t know how to win”.
But even if Everton do stay up and Burnley go down, the size of Lampard’s job will only get tougher. The former England midfielder, who is yet to oversee a relegation battle in previous spells at Derby and Chelsea, has a squad short of quality.
Everton have spent over £550million on new players since Farhad Moshiri’s arrival as majority shareholder. The product is a disjointed team shambolically assembled by six managers with wildly different playing styles.
And Lampard should sell a large chunk of his squad and start again in the summer, regardless of survival. A new model of recruitment is needed to prevent a repetition of mistakes such as the £28m spent on Moise Kean (now midway through a two-year loan at Juventus), the £35m spent on Alex Iwobi or the £20m spent on Theo Walcott.
The Everton boss needs to build around a core of trusted personnel, with Jordan Pickford, captain Seamus Coleman and forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin – bar a move to a top-six club – needing to stay. Pickford has stood behind a woeful back four this season that has conceded 52 Premier League goals.
Right-back Jonjo Kenny and centre-back Michael Keane have not been good enough. Both have received red cards in recent weeks for mindless second yellow cards that have cost their team.
In midfield, Fabian Delph, Andre Gomes and Iwobi are a combined £67m trio who have contributed very little of note, save for the latter’s winning goal against Newcastle in March. Academy graduate Tom Davies, now 23, is yet to realise the potential that once made him one of the Premier League’s most highly rated starlets.
That Donny van de Beek – albeit currently injured – and Dele Alli have not walked straight into that midfield points towards a disjointed January window that was started by Benitez and ended by Lampard. Van de Beek’s loan move seems unlikely to be made permanent, while Alli might even face an uncertain future of his own.
In attack, Everton have badly missed Calvert-Lewin for large portions of the season. The Three Lions forward, who scored 21 goals last term, has only featured in 12 Premier League matches in 2021-22 due to an ankle issue.
Benitez and Lampard have struggled to find a replacement. Salomon Rondon was a poor summer buy, while it remains a mystery that Cenk Tosun remains at the club and yet the likes of Demarai Gray have been used as makeshift strikers ahead of the Turkey international.
That gives Lampard the tough job of offloading at least 10 players in the summer, including loanee Van de Beek. If Everton are to prove they have learned from their mistakes of the Moshiri era, the fees received must be reinvested wisely.