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Lampard, Van de Beek and Dele: Will Everton's unlikely trio of gambles stave off relegation fears?

5:00 PM MYT 02/02/2022
Dele Alli, Frank Lampard, Donny van de Beek
The Blues have taken a huge risk by bringing in the former Chelsea manager and two stuttering talents but all three certainly have a point to prove

Typical, eh? You wait months, years even, for a goalscoring midfielder and then three come along in the space of a few hours.

It was a dramatic transfer deadline day at Everton, that’s for sure.

By the time it had finished, they had appointed a new manager and brought in two intriguing new signings; players who were once considered among the hottest properties in the game, but who will now be looking to revive their flagging careers at Goodison Park.

For Frank Lampard, the Blues’ seventh ‘permanent’ boss in less than six years, the challenge is clear: what can he get out of Donny van de Beek and Dele Alli that others have not been able to recently? 

He could certainly do with them rediscovering some of their old sparkle. 

Lampard inherits a side in freefall, 16th in the Premier League and having won just one of their last 14 league matches. 

They have games in hand on most of the teams around them, but they are just four points above the relegation zone as things stand, and visit 18th-placed Newcastle next. Lose there, and it really will be time to worry.

Van de Beek and Dele should, in theory, help matters at least. Whatever their recent form (or lack of it), the fact remains that Everton have signed two footballers of considerable talent, players who will, at their best, immediately strengthen their first XI. 

Players who know that they have everything to prove, too.

At 24 and 25 respectively, this is not where Van de Beek and Dele might have imagined their careers would be, but it is where they find themselves, and without wishing to sound overly-dramatic, failure at Goodison could spell the end of their time at the top level. 

Van de Beek’s case is a curious one.

Signed as one of Europe’s brightest young midfielders by Manchester United in 2020, his inability to make any kind of impression at Old Trafford has left everyone baffled.

He scored on his debut, but since then there has been precious little. He has made only four Premier League starts, and only 19 in total. 

His only other goal for the club, somewhat ironically, was the last one scored during the reign of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the manager who signed him then chose not to play him.

Ralf Rangnick, Solskjaer’s successor, continued that theme, in fairness. Van de Beek started two Champions League games, but he has played only nine minutes of league action under the German, spread across five substitute appearances. 

For a £35 million ($47m) signing, that is a damning indictment, and it will be interesting to see if he can prove his critics – and both Solskjaer and Rangnick – wrong in the coming months.

“I want to show my qualities, my strengths, to the people in England,” he said after signing on loan until the end of the season.

He says he is fit and ready to improve under Lampard’s guidance. Time will tell.

As for Dele, the question is whether he will ever be able to recover the form that once made him England’s stand-out young player. 

His decline at Tottenham has been staggering, from an indispensable member of Mauricio Pochettino’s vibrant, hungry team to an outcast, allowed to leave by Antonio Conte and deemed worthy only of a two-and-a-half year deal by Everton.

How the mighty have fallen.

“I just want to be happy playing football,” he said, and it is fair to say he hasn’t been that for some time. 

There have been 25 Premier League appearances and only one goal across the past two seasons, a quite remarkable drop-off for a player who played 146 times in his first three Spurs campaigns, and who scored 18 league goals in 2016-17 as a 20-year-old.

Then, Dele looked destined for greatness, a hard-running attacking midfielder with desire and class, a nasty streak and an ability to both create and score goals.

 He, Harry Kane and Son Heung-min were the jewels in the Tottenham crown, the rocks around which Pochettino built a side capable of reaching a Champions League final.

That was less than three years ago, incredibly, but as Kane and Son have maintained their status, Dele’s star has faded rapidly. 

Pochettino left, Jose Mourinho’s tough love brought only so much, and neither Nuno Espirito Santo nor Conte have been able to bring back the old swagger.

Will Lampard be able to? Both Van de Beek and Dele spoke with reverence about their new boss, and understandably so.

Whatever the doubts about him after he met a swift end at Chelsea, he remains one of the great midfielders of the modern era, a by-word for dedication and determination and consistency. 

If a little of that can rub off on Van de Beek and Dele, then Everton will be in business.

But it’s a big if.