Everton have the worst away form in the Premier League, conceding 19 goals in seven straight defeats and without a win since August… Frank Lampard must now keep faith in aggressive, counter attacking football
- Everton have found a style that suits them – sitting deep and attacking fast
- The players are showing spirit and fight that has delighted their supporters
- The Toffees away form is the worst in the league, so Leicester City will be a test
- Frank Lampard should send out the Dogs of War again at the King Power
Everton fans are celebrating the return of the Dogs of War, after two battling displays – and three points against Chelsea – triggered memories of the great escape from relegation in the mid-nineties.
Under Joe Royle in 1994-95, the phrase became Everton’s battle-cry and their fighting spirit saw them secure their top-flight status with five days of the season remaining, following a 1-0 win at Ipswich.
For many supporters, that attitude has been missing this season, first under manager Rafael Benitez and even with Frank Lampard at the helm.
Everton supporters are delighted to see their side fighting hard with a ‘Dogs of War’ spirit
However, there is now evidence on the pitch and in the statistics that the Dogs are back. Snarling with intent, the Toffees have battled hard and broken fast against Liverpool and Chelsea, claiming an unexpected win over the Blues.
Everton fans cannot hide their delight and relief that the team is showing real intent, as the relegation battle winds up to a tight finale. Not only that, an actual dog, held aloft and sailing regally across the crowds, met the Everton team bus, when it arrived at Goodison last Sunday.
Myra, a 20kg Belgian Malinois was out for her walk when she got caught up in the Toffees’ relegation struggle, and her owners vow she’ll be back for the next home game against Brentford. Inevitably, she now has a Twitter account.
The players resppnded last week to a rousing reception, which even included an actual dog, Myra, the Belgian Malinois (below), by beating Chelsea 1-0 and giving fans hope
Lampard appears to have found a style that works for his players. Against Liverpool and Chelsea, he encouraged his team to play deeper and to join the battle from their own penalty area, before attacking quickly. Surely, he will consider a similar approach at Leicester this afternoon.
In his 11 Premier League matches in charge prior to the Merseyside derby, Everton pressed the ball higher up the pitch. Less than one third of those pressures came in the defensive third, according to the analysis website, FBREF.
Against Liverpool and Chelsea, Everton averaged a similar number of pressures, but almost half of them were in that defensive third.
Lampard’s side are chasing Leeds and Burnley to avoid relegation from the Premier League
And the shift is reflected in Everton’s tackling, with more interventions in the defensive area of the pitch, on average, in the last two games, compared to the previous matches under Lampard.
It is a different set-up to the one the manager employed at Tottenham on March 7, when Everton lost 5-0, for example. On that day, the Toffees tried to play higher, using a 4-2-3-1 formation, making less than one quarter of their presses in the defensive zone. They paid a heavy price.
The current approach saw Everton play essentially a 4-5-1 against Liverpool and 5-4-1 formation against Chelsea with a combination of Abdoulaye Doucoure, Fabian Delph and Allan giving full-bloodied performances in midfield, closely guarding access to their own penalty area.
It worked. And Lampard should unleash the Dogs again in Everton’s next game since the players seem to be comfortable with it.
Since arriving at the end of January, Lampard’s side have lost their last six games away
Centre back Michael Keane certainly gave an insight into what the Chelsea win meant to the team.
‘It was special, the whole day. Coming into Goodison on the coach and seeing thousands of fans there chanting, with flares, banging on the bus, just genuine passion you can see on their faces – it gave the lads a massive lift,’ Keane told Sky Sports.
‘But we’re trying to stay calm, we’ve got five games left to go, we’re going to need a few more wins. We can’t get carried away, we’ve got to focus… on the Leicester game.
‘It wasn’t silly celebrations, we know it’s just three points. Three points in the right direction for us.
But the manager appears to have found a style that is working for his players
The match at the King Power will be a huge test. These players have shown they can be roused by a raucous home crowd, and Everton fans, to their credit, gave their all before and during last Sunday’s match.
But the problem is, all too often the team has failed to back up those promising displays, particularly on the road.
Everton have won just once away from home this season, a 2-0 win at Brighton on August 28 and their travelling form – seven straight defeats – is the worst in the Premier League.
Six of those defeats have been under Lampard, since he took charge on January 31.
There is a clear pattern.
Everton were thumped 5-0 at Tottenham earlier this season, but they look more solid now
Everton enjoyed a thumping 4-1 win over Brentford in the new boss’s first game in charge on February 5, only to slide to a 3-1 defeat at Newcastle three days later.
They put three past Leeds United at Goodison on February 12, but failed to show up at Southampton the following week, losing 2-0 without registering a shot on target.
‘In the two games at Goodison I have seen some really good things – in the two games away, not so much,’ said Lampard afterwards.
The inconsistency has continued as Everton’s home form has picked up.
A 1-0 win over Newcastle on March 17, was followed by a humbling at Selhurst Park in the FA Cup quarter-final, where they lost 4-0 to Crystal Palace, fading miserably after a good start.
Toffees have delivered some good performances for their own fans, but can they back it up?
When Everton defeated Manchester United 1-0 at Goodison Park on April 9 many thought the path to salvation was clear at last, but the Toffees found themselves 1-0 down to Leicester five minutes into their next home fixture, before rescuing a point in injury time.
The Foxes are no pushover at home, even if they have faltered in their push for a European spot. They are unbeaten in their last six Premier League matches at the King Power, registering three wins and three draws, stretching back to January.
But off the back of a great win and after Leicester’s travails in the Europa Conference League, in which they went out to Roma at the Stadio Olimpico on Thursday, this is the moment for Everton to stake their claim to a Premier League spot next season.
Each time it looks like they have taken a stride forward, they immediately take one backwards, but with 40 points likely to be required to maintain top-flight status, and with just five games to go, Everton need to break that pattern now.
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