Frank Lampard borrows from Jose Mourinho’s playbook as Everton show dogged streak

Frank Lampard reacts to Everton’s victory over Chelsea

Thomas Tuchel was woken up twice by the fireworks outside the Hilton hotel in Liverpool. The first time, he recalled, was at 1am, the second at 3am. On each occasion, he said, he was only disturbed for a minute by the Everton supporters’ attempts to distract Chelsea. He had more complaints about his team’s inability to keep a clean sheet.

But the hostile welcome for Chelsea began long before Richarlison harried Cesar Azpilicueta out of possession for Everton’s winner. Liverpool can feel the least English of English cities. Perhaps Chelsea were granted the kind of reception that was plucked from South America. “Nicely aggressive,” was how Frank Lampard described Everton’s fans. From the blue flares in the cramped streets around Goodison Park to the deafening noise inside, this felt like the antidote to the sanitised world of the Premier League.

“If it doesn’t give you goosebumps, if it doesn’t get you ready to go out and give everything, then there is something wrong with you, you shouldn’t be playing the game,” reflected Lampard after the best win of his time at Merseyside. Jordan Pickford was the game’s outstanding player but Lampard felt the honours should go to the supporters. “They were the 12th man, they were the people of the match,” he said. The 12th man has helped bring 13 points: Lampard is still yet to secure any on the road, but has 10 from his last four home games. A club that has often felt fractured in recent years is now projecting an air of unity, albeit in the necessity of avoiding relegation. “When the club comes together at Goodison that is amazing and that is why results have been so good here,” said Lampard.

If he, Essex boy and Chelsea icon, is an unlikely figurehead for a project based on Merseyside defiance, supporters never rallied around Rafa Benitez and surely would not have embraced Vitor Pereira. Perhaps little in Lampard’s garlanded career prepared him for this; fail and the consequences are considerable, for him and Everton alike.

The method of victory was instructive. His managerial career offers intrigue. A Jose Mourinho protégé as a player, he seemed the anti-Mourinho as Chelsea manager, promoting youth, playing attacking football, sometimes lacking defensive rigour. Everton’s attempts to frustrate at Anfield brought comparisons with his old mentor. Their willingness to wind up Chelsea, their group of irritants, suggested a recent conversion to Mourinho’s school of thought. For once, Lampard looked influenced by Diego Simeone. Everton were streetwise, unafraid to be unpopular with their opponents.

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But the comparison may come instead from Everton’s past. A year ago, Carlo Ancelotti bluntly admitted that Everton were not a possession team. They have become an anti-possession team now: 17 per cent against Liverpool, 22 against Chelsea. Allan, who completed one pass at Anfield, at least doubled that tally in a cameo against Chelsea. His passes were still outnumbered by his clearances. Seamus Coleman finished the game with five of each.

“Everton’s the team that plays beautiful football” rang around Goodison after the final whistle. It is a lyric from Forever Everton, one of the club’s anthems. If there is a case for arguing it has been outdated for years, they certainly don’t now. They can’t afford to. They aren’t capable of it. “Beautiful football can come later,” Lampard said after April’s win over Manchester United. “Fighting comes first.”

They have been a team in search of an identity in a time as big-spending underachievers. There have been times this season, especially away from home, when they have shown too little spirit. It was not an accusation that could be levelled at Richarlison or Pickford, Coleman or Anthony Gordon, Fabian Delph or Yerry Mina on Sunday. Alex Iwobi has belatedly acquired popularity for his relentless running. Richarlison used to be linked with Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona. Keep Everton up – and a winner added to an injury-time decider against Arsenal and equaliser against Leicester – and he could instead be remembered at Goodison as a 21st-century Graham Stuart or Kevin Campbell, their rescuer in time of need.

Go back to 1994-95, a year Everton remember because it brought their last trophy and Joe Royle inherited a relegation battle and branded his team “the dogs of war.” Some 27 years later, Lampard’s team have shown their dogged streak in beating Newcastle, Manchester United and now Chelsea at Goodison. Now Lampard’s dogs of war have five more battles to go to win the biggest fight in Everton’s recent history.

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