Evertonians’ optimism renewed as ‘Super Frankie Lampard’ gets Goodison Park rocking once again

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In only a short space of time Frank Lampard has brought wins, an appealing style of football and optimism back to the stands of Everton’s historic home.

For 90 minutes on Saturday, Goodison Park was, as described by Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster, horrible. The Goodison Gang booed every touch of the ball from a Leeds player, and roared each time possession was regained.

Three weeks earlier a group of supporters stayed behind for hours to protest against the running of the club, with one banner being displayed reading: ‘The fans expect the best.’ On Saturday, Evertonians stayed behind to chant the name of Lampard, their saviour, the man who in two home matches has delivered the best.

The former Chelsea star has reunited a fan base. On this day last month, supporters jeered the players at full-time after Everton’s 2-1 defeat to bottom of the table Norwich City. Less than 24 hours later, Everton sacked Rafael Benitez.

The former Liverpool manager’s appointment was the most controversial in the history of Merseyside football. Supporters showcased their disapproval from the start and after six-and-a-half months of misery, Benitez was relieved of his duties with the worst win percentage of any permanent Everton manager in 24 years.

Lampard’s arrival on Merseyside has reignited optimism. The Deadline Day signings of Dele Alli and Donny van de Beek, who joined on a six-month loan from Manchester United,  acted as a powerful statement. The pair were influential against Leeds, with the Dutchman showing his qualities throughout the 90 minutes whilst Dele’s positive impact almost resulted in a fourth goal – however, Illan Meslier denied Saloman Rondon with an unbelievable save.

After the duo missed the boss’ first game in charge against Brentford in the FA Cup  they made their Everton debuts in the Toffees’ 3-1 defeat at Newcastle United. A crucial six-pointer lost, but it provided an early, and perhaps needed, reality check for the 43-year-old.

Prior to kick-off against Leeds, Everton sat two points above relegation. The magnitude of the task was too great for Benitez, but it is one Lampard is fully up for fighting. Since his arrival, Everton have been revolutionised. The lethargic and uninspiring football seen under Benitez, has been transformed into a purposeful, possession-based, attacking style which is being rewarded.

Everton’s fourth goal against Brentford was the perfect example of the football Lampard intends to play. A 30 pass move, which started in the host’s defending penalty area, was finished off by Andros Townsend. The winger, who is the club’s top scorer this season, fired the ball past a helpless Raya to seal only a second Goodison Park win since September.

The Toffees’ opener against Leeds also came from the training ground. Van de Beek, who was picked out in the area by an excellently executed first time ball from Anthony Gordon, squared the ball to Dominic Calvert-Lewin in front of goal. Despite the ball deflecting into the air, a marauding Seamus Coleman bravely converted a diving header into an unguarded goal.

The right-back rolled back the years, dusting off his attacking boots. The goal was his first since 2019 and his celebration exemplified the Evertonian he is. The skipper grabbed the badge, whilst his facial expressions held back tears. After the final whistle the Irishman embraced fellow standout performer Alex Iwobi, showing the leadership qualities he has been hailed for on many occasions.

Everton’s back-line under Benitez was unorganised, bullied and incapable of improving – especially at set-pieces. The Blues have conceded 13 goals from set-pieces this season which is already three more than they shipped under Carlo Ancelotti last campaign.

Against Brentford, Everton scored twice from corners and on Saturday, Michael Keane headed in from another. With assistant manager Paul Clement now coaching set-pieces, the Blues will be hoping to emulate the attacking success they had from dead ball situations last season which saw them become one of the most potent sides in the league.

Lampard’s early success has been achieved without a number of first-team players. Abdoulaye Doucoure [groin] is expected to return in the coming weeks along with Demarai Gray [hip] whilst Yerry Mina [quad] is facing eight weeks out after he departed play early at St James’ Park.

Added absentees in the defence means Ben Godfrey is side-lined until March with a hamstring tear whilst new signing Vitalii Mykolenko, who has missed Everton’s last two matches, is suffering from Covid-19. Fabian Delph is also out till the end of the month because of a thigh injury.

Come March, when Everton expect to have a near-full strength squad, the Toffees will hope to be clear of danger. If not, the Blues’ run in is likely to turn into an unpleasant dog fight. Lampard’s side play Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea in the space of four weeks, and there is still the possibility of an FA Cup semi-final with Everton hosting National League side Boreham Wood in the fifth round.

Following Saturday’s win, and defeats for Norwich, Watford and Burnley, Everton find themselves five points clear of the bottom three. The Toffees have a game in hand on Newcastle and Watford, whilst having two on Norwich. From the positives in their showing against Leeds, results will come.

Lampard will be aiming to steer Everton further clear when he takes his side to Southampton on Saturday, in a game that will not be an easy feat as their recent visits to St Mary’s have been disastrous. The Saints have beaten Everton in four of the last five meetings on the south coast, in which the Blues have conceded 10 and scored four.

Next up at Goodison for Lampard is the reigning champions, and current league leaders, Manchester City. Everton have lost their last nine matches against City, with their last win over Pep Guardiola’s side being a 4-0 thrashing five years ago.

The atmosphere inside their historic home ground must be how it was vs Leeds permanently. City are 15 league matches unbeaten whilst sitting nine points clear of Liverpool who have a game in hand. The renewed optimism has brought unity between players and supporters which will be a key factor in Everton’s bid to avoid a first relegation in 7 -years.

For now, belief has been restored. In what has been a first-half of the season to forget for Evertonians, the second-half has the potential to be one to remember. Lampard’s first Premier League win for the Toffees must be followed up with a second in suitable time.

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