Just as Everton seemed to be nearing the end of their injury problems to begin the season, unfortunately a new issue has reared up for Frank Lampard.
Nathan Patterson has been fantastic for the Blues throughout the beginning of the campaign, putting in brilliant defensive displays especially in recent weeks as the club have tightened up at the back. The youngster had to wait for his opportunity in the side, but Seamus Coleman’s absence at the beginning of the season opened a door which the 20-year-old gladly stepped through.
However, earlier this week the right-back was stretchered in the first half of Scotland’s win over Ukraine. He returned to Finch Farm to be further assessed by his club after officially dropping out of his international squad on Thursday evening, with many fans fearing the defender could be set for an extended spell on the sidelines.
Certainly this would be a blow for Lampard. Not only would he be without one of his most impressive and dynamic players in the side for a little while, but the solid defence that he has built up over recent weeks will also be forced to change – which is not ideal.
But, there are a few options facing the manager to replace Patterson for the time-being. The most obvious of those would be to keep the same system and bring Coleman back into the side as a like-for-like swap.
Fans have known for some time that Everton have needed a long-term replacement for their club captain and it seems that the Scotland international will finally fill those shoes. However, even in the back end of last season, Coleman proved that he’s still got a lot of capability to excel in Premier League matches.
Some supporters have levelled concerns around the defenders age and his ability to both attack and defend, but this isn’t the first time that he’ll want to prove people wrong. Adding more leadership to the back line and a willing player with potentially a chip on his shoulder might not be the worst thing.
Aside from Coleman, in terms of keeping the same system at least, it seems that Lampard would be relying on potential returns from injury. It’s not yet clear on the exact time-frame of Mason Holgate’s recovery, for example, but the Everton website currently has him listed as being back in October.
Whether he will be fit enough to start a game, however, is yet to be seen. Add into that the fact that he would be playing out-of-position in that role and maybe the idea begins to make a little less sense.
Another left-field option would be to bring Stanley Mills into the mix, as he did line up with the first team in that role as part of their pre-season tour of the USA in the summer. However, giving the youngster his first taste of Premier League football in that situation might not be best for his development.
If, though, Lampard opted to change his system again thanks to this injury setback – then maybe Mills would be better suited as a wing-back rather than a right-back. But again, there’s pros and cons to this entire situation.
Everton finally look to be developing an identity in their play and building an effective system while playing in a 4-3-3 formation. That’s been exemplified with the form of Alex Iwobi and Amadou Onana in midfield, with Idrissa Gueye starting the most recent match and also hugely impressing.
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It would seem something of a shame to have to change that style as the vast majority of Evertonians would agree that not only does the side look more exciting in this set-up, but they actually seem defensively a little more solid as well.
On the other hand, Onana and Gueye as a midfield two certainly have the energy and the intelligence to be able to provide effective cover in front of a back five – while also providing ample support up the pitch. That’s what the Blues were missing last time they played in that role, but perhaps things are different now.
Iwobi played fantastically well as a right wing-back at the end of last season, so could he be asked to line up there? Again, it seems a shame to move him out of a central midfield position he’s been excellent in so far this season, but this could be an option that Lampard considers.
That could potentially see Coleman line up as part of the central defensive trio, a position which he did look strong in throughout the closing stages of 2021/22. Playing alongside Conor Coady and James Tarkowski would give Everton a wealth of experience and leadership at the back of the pitch.
But, this is all speculation. It’s more than likely that Lampard will opt to not change his system too much, and see Coleman as the like-for-like change that his side needs for this spell without Patterson.
He’s proven in the past that he’s more than capable of being part of a strong Everton defence, and there’s no reason to suggest he can’t do the same again whenever the club need him.