Sam Tighe assesses the challenge facing Southampton against an Everton side now under the management of Frank Lampard. It's the latest edition of Tactical Watch, in association with Sportsbet.io.
Everton fans were treated to a triple dose of excitement on January transfer deadline day, as the club announced two new signings – Dele Alli from Tottenham and Donny van de Beek from Manchester United – alongside new manager Frank Lampard.
It was a day that transformed the face of the team at a time when they truly needed it; they’d won one league game in 14 and sunk towards the bottom of the table, forcing a change. Lampard began with a 4-1 win over Brentford in the FA Cup, and although a 3-1 loss to Newcastle United soon followed, they got back on track with a 3-0 victory over Leeds United last weekend.
The performance against Leeds was excellent: vibrant, energetic and coursing with belief. Lampard has emphasised how he wants his teams to play on the front foot and press high and they’re already doing so; the fact he’s coaxed that out of the squad so quickly is impressive, given it’s a marked difference to the way Rafa Benítez instructed the same group.
“From minute one (against Leeds) we got in their faces,” defender Michael Keane said after the game, explaining the key differences under the new manager. “The intensity of training has been high as well as the way we press. He’s given us the freedom to pass the ball more and show what we’re capable of. All those things added together make a big difference.”
Lampard laid out a 4-4-2 formation against Leeds that combined Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin up front. The pair fed off an aggressive midfield four who stepped up the pitch and intercepted or harried whenever possible, disrupting their opponents’ build-up.
The man who epitomised Everton’s approach and performance on the day was Anthony Gordon, a 20-year-old academy product who brought Goodison Park to its feet thanks to a goal, an assist and some relentless running and chasing. Leeds, unchanged off the back of a gruelling 3-3 draw with Aston Villa midweek, couldn’t handle it.
Southampton’s first task today will be to match that energy. This is an Everton side who believe in themselves again so they’ll look to set the tone; that’ll be harder away from home, naturally, but it’s a clear key for Lampard’s intended approach.
There should also be opportunities for Saints’ even more established and effective pressing game to disrupt at the other end. Everton have begun transitioning from a direct mode of build-up to a much shorter one, as Keane intimated. Mistakes can and will happen in those early days – we saw some against Newcastle – so Armando Broja and Ché Adams will be on red alert.
Finally, Everton’s set-piece record under new management is something to be wary of: they’ve scored four from these situations in just three games, with Paul Clement brought in to oversee things and seeing immediate, positive results.