Frank Lampard details cause of Dele Alli’s Everton issues after failure to start a game
The 26-year-old signed for the Toffees in January on deadline day in a unique deal that was initially free, but could potentially rise to £40million depending on how many appearances he makes.
However since then, playing opportunities have been few and far between. He has yet to start a game and has made just nine substitute appearances, the last of which came against Chelsea at the beginning of May.
When Lampard was asked about the former England international on Friday afternoon, he said: “I have had those discussions with him, he’ll be very clear as to where I am and at the moment I’m much more concerned about the collective getting over the line as a group. If Dele plays his part in these three games then great and he steps up as he’s come on at times and done good things for us.
It’s an area of the squad where we have other players who have been playing, that’s just the reality of the situation. He needs to just keep training hard and stay really well focused and fight for the opportunity.”
There was a hope that his move to Merseyside could have reignited a career that started to wane not long after the departure of Mauricio Pochettino in 2019. In the years that followed under more constraining tactical approaches from the likes of Jose Mourinho, Nuno Espirito Santo and more recently, Antonio Conte, Dele struggled.
Some of his issues across recent seasons have been attributed to the mental aspects of his game, with each of those aforementioned managers not boasting the same man-management expertise that Pochettino had.
This is believed to be a strength of Lampard’s and the Blues’ boss did play a decisive role in Dele choosing to go to Goodison Park in the first place.
Lampard was said to have spoken to Dele directly, advising him of his value and stating that he’d be able to get the best from the attacker at Everton. Yet as of yet, that’s not been the case. In fact, the tactics deployed by Lampard have actually made it tougher for Dele to find a consistent role in the side.
At his best, Dele thrived playing behind strikers and at the top end of his side’s attack, most often like a number ten or second striker. Between 2016 and 2017, he scored 28 Premier League goals while registering a further 16 league assists.
He loved picking the ball up in dangerous areas and his ability to thread passes into the feet of forwards ahead was underrated. Notably, in Pochettino’s last season, he ranked behind only Christian Eriksen at Spurs in terms of attempting the highest number of through passes per 90.
Right now though, Everton aren’t really playing with formations that allow for a number ten profile. Lampard has fluctuated between a 4-3-3 or 3-4-3 in each of his last nine matches, and when Dele has made a rare appearance, it’s often come in midfield. Although competent in such a role, he doesn’t really excel in it, making it easy to see why he’s not done enough in these moments to stake a claim to start.
A glimmer of hope for the 26-year-old is that right now Everton are in survival mode. Lampard has sacrificed performances for results, which is understandable given their position in the table.
However the former Chelsea midfielder has stated on more than one occasion that he has ambitions to play a more expansive game of football later down the line. This will suit Dele better, and he could yet go on to be an important player at Goodison Park.