Lampard: Where does Everton gamble leave Iwobi?

Everton's Lampard, Alex IwobiGoal/Getty

Everton appear rudderless and lack direction. It will be six years this month since Farhad Moshiri became the club’s majority shareholder in February 2016, but they seem to be far away from even upsetting the top-four applecart.

Six permanent managers have been appointed in that time, with Roberto Martinez — who was sacked in May 2016 — taking the list of head coaches to have served under the British-Iranian businessman to seven.

A plethora of the team’s players have inevitably been caught in the chaotic approach of the Merseyside club, and Alex Iwobi is no different.

The Nigerian left Arsenal in the summer of 2019 for big money by Everton’s standards but has largely failed to sparkle, despite the obvious flashes of his undoubted talent.

In truth, the attacking midfielder has not been helped by the higher-ups’ inclination to chop and change the men at the helm, with Frank Lampard becoming the fourth boss the Super Eagle will be playing under in less than three years since leaving North London.

Frank-Lampard
(C)Getty Images

Everton’s initial £28 million outlay on Iwobi — potentially rising to £34 million in add-ons — is the highest fee the Goodison Park outfit have shelled out in recent years, yet supporters have grown weary of the former Arsenal man.

The opprobrium after a 1-0 defeat by Brentford in late November was fierce, and the 25-year-old was one of the players singled out following the game at the Brentford Community Stadium.

Alex Iwobi Everton West Ham 2021-22
Getty

Coronavirus postponements and participation at the Africa Cup of Nations meant Iwobi made only two Premier League appearances after that loss, and he returns to a club where a whole lot has changed since he departed for Cameroon in early January.

The much-maligned Rafael Benitez has been jettisoned, with Lampard replacing the Spaniard after a search that underscored the mess that has typified the club’s modus operandi.

Rafa Benitez Everton 2021-22
Getty Images

As Iwobi represented his nation at Afcon, Benitez’s reign, which concluded with only one league win in 13 games, disintegrated into further chaos before the hierarchy decided enough was enough after a 2-1 defeat by Norwich City.

Linked with several names that included Roberto Martinez, Wayne Rooney and initial front-runner Vitor Pereira, whose ill-advised interview with Sky Sports saw him drop out of contention, the Toffees have appointed the former Derby County and Chelsea boss.

While it has been generally well-received, it represents a different approach by Moshiri who had previously tended to opt for experience or coaches with a winning history.

Lampard is neither, even though his ideas and playing history will get him in the room.

You are wont to ponder where this latest move leaves an Everton side battling relegation, and players like Iwobi will wonder where he fits under the Blues legend.

Lampard tended to utilise a 4-3-3 in his only full season at Stamford Bridge, with an inclination to switch to a 4-2-3-1 from time to time.

Frank Lampard Chelsea December 2020
Getty Images

Indeed, the former England international has leaned towards both formations at Derby and Chelsea, making use of the 4-2-3-1 26 times in the regular Championship season in 2018/19, whereas the 4-3-3 was employed on 18 occasions.

In the Blues’ 2019/20 campaign, however, there was a preference for a 4-3-3, a tactic Lampard adopted in 18 of their 38 PL matches. He utilised a 4-2-3-1 12 times, while several variations of a back three were used in eight games.

The next few weeks will tell what the 43-year-old’s preference will be, although there is a sense either formation will be favoured in his time at Goodison.

As for Iwobi, there will be an expected competition for places, especially after the club’s transfer business in January.

Dele Alli, Frank Lampard, Donny van de Beek
Goal/Getty

Dele Alli and Donny van de Beek’s Deadline Day arrivals increase the team’s options in central areas, while Anwar El Ghazi’s move from Aston Villa adds to Everton’s choices in wide positions.

Admittedly, only Alli represents the Merseyside outfit’s permanent signing of the trio, yet match action could be limited in the short term for Iwobi whose game time was sporadic this season under Benitez.

Iwobi’s versatility means a wing-back berth will always be an option for the Nigerian, although this is far from ideal for a player who ranks as Everton’s fourth-highest transfer outlay in the club’s history.

It has been far from plain sailing for the ex-Arsenal man since leaving the Emirates Stadium, with the criticism of his end product unabating.

Alex Iwobi of Everton
George Wood/Getty Images

Six Premier League goal involvements (three goals and as many assists) in 43 starts (68 altogether) was not what Everton signed up for and the next few months under Lampard could be critical for a player who enters the final two years of his current contract in the summer of 2022.

Article continues below

Marco Silva, Carlo Ancelotti and Benitez have tried to get the best out of Iwobi, amid the club’s wider complicated structure, with varying levels of success.

That duty now falls to Lampard, who himself faces questions over his suitability for the position as the troubled Merseyside club strives to steer clear of the bottom three.

Time will tell if the right decision has been made. Time will tell whether Iwobi will flourish under his fourth manager in what has been a turbulent spell at Goodison.