Is this the end of Frank Lampard the manager?

Nine months ago Frank Lampard was bouncing on the roof of an executive box at Goodison Park. Now he has been dismissed with only goal difference keeping Everton off the foot of the Premier League. Lampard’s sacking had taken on an air of inevitability. Farhad Moshiri had argued that Everton’s previous managers were dismissed as much by the fans as by him.

Lampard, however, was fired by results: for 11 defeats in 14 games, for the poorest record in the Premier League over the last three months, for the lowest points total in 20 games in their history. He was not hounded out; just dismissed in a bid to preserve their top-flight status.

Lampard exits with the lowest win percentage of any permanent Everton manager since Mike Walker; in the Premier League, he took 35 points from 38 games, the equivalent of a full season, scoring just 34 goals. Yet he also goes with the sense that it wasn’t all his fault. The context and culture rendered it a difficult job; briefly he flourished, and ultimately he floundered.

He had stopped Everton being toxic, but only temporarily. The supporters’ ire has been directed toward the board. That said board, along with Moshiri, are charged with finding a replacement. They may regret giving Lampard the games against Southampton and West Ham; two defeats against relegation rivals worsened Everton’s plight. With the benefit of hindsight, Lampard sent spiralling downwards by the twin defeats to Bournemouth before the World Cup.

His was a reign of two quick fixes, both impressive at the time, but which were preceded and followed by runs of defeats. The comeback against Crystal Palace to keep Everton up, an achievement forged by victories over Manchester United and Chelsea, demonstrated Lampard briefly united a club further divided by Rafa Benitez, forging a bond with the supporters and galvanising a group of players; yet Goodison, a bearpit then, became a place where Everton lost to Wolves, Brighton and Southampton in recent weeks.

Everton’s early-season improvement, based around Lampard’s recruitment of Conor Coady and James Tarkowski, produced a rearguard that briefly had the division’s best defensive record. Yet some of his early-season successes, like Alex Iwobi, Nathan Patterson and Vitalii Mykolenko, have regressed. The best part of his legacy may be Amadou Onana, but Everton stop resembling a coherent team.

A talisman of their spring surge was Richarlison. Everton’s overspending, which predated Lampard, meant the Brazilian was soon sold. Their difficulty in funding up-front fees meant his replacements ended up being Dwight McNeil and Neal Maupay; it is an indictment of the striker that the winger has outscored him in the Premier League, but neither has offered any potency. Neither really felt his first choice in the market, but Everton’s recruitment became based on who they could get more than who they really wanted.

Frank Lampard has been sacked after less than a year in charge at Everton (PA Wire)
Frank Lampard has been sacked after less than a year in charge at Everton (PA Wire)

Yet their fees will amount to a combined £32 million and Everton paid a price by becoming the second lowest scorers in the division. They ought to have accepted Chelsea’s inflated summer bid for Anthony Gordon: instead, Lampard’s defiance meant they kept a local lad who ended his reign on the bench. That Lampard has never really had a fit and firing Dominic Calvert-Lewin has exacerbated their problems in front of goal.

As Everton unravelled, there were recurring themes. Senior players have a tendency to go off Lampard in time. His Chelsea teams could get caught on the counter-attack and so did Everton. He struggled to find the balance between defence and attack and, when Everton showed solidity earlier in the campaign, Lampard looked to tweak his tactics to add more goals. Instead, Everton conceded more.

Frank Lampard applauds the Everton fans at the London Stadium (REUTERS)
Frank Lampard applauds the Everton fans at the London Stadium (REUTERS)

With disarming honesty, Lampard recently admitted: “I know I’m not the best coach in the world.”

For a while it seemed as though his evident good intentions, his good relations with both his employers and the supporters, his attempts to add leadership on the pitch and encourage some younger players might be enough.

Yet though he brought a sense of responsibility, he never really recovered from the loss of Richarlison. Now Everton’s alarming slide invites questions where he will manage again and if they are unmanageable.