How will history look back on Frank Lampard’s 12 month stint in charge of Everton Football Club?  A man who took over a side at rock bottom following the disastrous Rafael Benitez era, and leaves them in pretty much the same exact place one year laater. 

A man who, for the most part, operated with one hand tied firmly behind his pack; forced to live off crumbs after so many years of over-indulgence. While Wolves, Southampton and Bournemouth have splashed out on January reinforcements, cash-strapped Everton have been forced to prioritise low-cost short-term deals, priced out of pursuing the likes of Danny Ings and Matheus Cunha. 

It’s telling that, as the air turned a shade of blue identical to Everton’s home shirt at Goodison Park, much of the fury was aimed not at the dugout but at the director’s box. Lampard may have been a symptom of Everton’s seemingly never-ending malaise, but he was certainly not the cause. Everton were a mess before Lampard arrived, and they’re still a mess now.

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Everton sack Frank Lampard

Then again, this is not the say the former Chelsea and Derby County boss is entirely free from blame. Far from it. Everton’s 2-0 defeat at West Ham United on Saturday – Lampard’s final outing as Toffees boss – was oh-so familiar. A total absence of an attacking threat coupled with a crippling vulnerability at the other end makes for a rather lethal cocktail; straight to the hangover stage, with none of the fun times in between. 

Ask yourself this; what were Lampard’s Everton? Were they a possession-based team? A counter-attacking, one? What? It’s relatively easy to set up your team to take on a Manchester City or a Man United; defend deep, everyone behind the ball, and rely on quick transitions. But when Everton came up against a team they could conceivably describe as an ‘equal’, Lampard’s limitations were clear to see. The West Ham defeat summed up the typical Everton performance in games like this; a team plodding around the pitch, seemingly none-the-wiser as to what on earth they were being asked to do before being picked off with damning ease.

So for Conor Coady, arriving last summer after seven largely excellent seasons at Wolverhampton Wanderers, reports suggesting that Nuno Espirito Santo could be brought in as Lampard’s successor may be music to the England international’s ears (Sky Sports).  

‘Incredible’

“Nuno was incredible when he first came to the club,” Coady told the Everton website; recalling the remarkable impact Nuno made following his appointment at Wolves in the summer of 2016, taking the club from 13th in the Championship to the Europa League quarter-finals in the space of just four years. 

“The conversation (I had with Nuno during a training camp in Austria) I’ll remember for the rest of my life. What he told me about what he wanted to do with the club, he did the whole lot. 

“He told me everything he wanted to do, and everything panned out. It’s one of the most enjoyable and best seasons that I have had in football, because the feeling of every week going into a game (thinking you’re going to win).” 

If Nuno’s Wolves approached every single game with a rock-solid self-confidence, then the total opposite is true of Everton. Nuno gave Wolves an identity, a clear structure, and a platform built upon his trademark three-man backline. Nuno rarely deviated from his 3-4-3 system at Molineux. And, while some may accuse him of being rather one-dimensional, the results speak for themselves. Wolves finished in the Premier League’s top seven twice under Nuno, reached an FA Cup semi-final, a Europa League semi-final, and had one of the division’s best defensive records in 2019/20; Coady one of the load-bearing pillars in the Nuno Kingdom. Consistency, stability and organisation, three attributes so clearly lacking at Everton, were the hallmark of Nuno’s Wolves.

Nuno Espirito Santo could return to the Premier League

Everton are conceding goals by the bucketload but it’s not hard to imagine Nuno creating a solid base upon a spine of Jordan Pickford, James Tarkowski, Amadou Onana and his former Wolves skipper Coady.

“He’s really changed the direction of the club,” Coady added, via the BBC in 2019. “It was needed. His staff came in and they’ve been absolutely phenomenal. In terms of the way the lads are playing, it’s all down to him.” 

That brief and unsuccessful spell at a troubled Tottenham Hotspur aside, Nuno’s transformative stint at Molineux provides a tantalising glimpse into what he could bring to Goodison Park. A settled, consistent game-plan, a much-improved defence, and a clear, coherent identity.

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