Saturday had the chance to be a turning point in Everton and Frank Lampard’s season but ultimately it delivered arguably their lowest point in another dismal campaign.
Just nine months on from jubilant scenes at Goodison Park after Lampard had guided the Toffees to Premier League survival, the disconnect between fans and the club’s owners appears bigger than ever.
Such was the concern for the safety of board members for the visit of bottom-of-the-table Southampton, they were told to stay away from the ground over fears for their safety in what the club described as “a profoundly sad day”.
Protests had long been planned around the game, with banners displayed before kick-off, while thousands of Everton fans remained long after full-time to stage a sit-in.
A win and a positive performance would have helped lift the tense atmosphere but ultimately it failed to materialise as the Toffees slumped to a hugely damaging 2-1 defeat that leaves them second from bottom, one point from safety.
There is plenty of time for Everton to turn things around and pull off another escape, but there is no doubt there is a feeling of despair among fans as they find their club in this position once again.
A day of hope turns to more frustration
While the anger at the club’s owners is the culmination of several seasons of struggle and what fans perceive as poor decision-making at board level, the sense that they were behind the players was strong in the build-up to Saturday’s game.
In scenes reminiscent of last year, when supporters were praised for being Everton’s 12th man in their bid to retain their Premier League status, huge numbers lined the streets around Goodison Park, letting off blue flares as the team coach arrived.
That positive atmosphere extended to the start of the match as the players came out but by full-time those same players left the pitch to boos, with only Amadou Onana, scorer of Everton’s goal, being applauded as he made his way to the tunnel.
Onana’s header should have given Everton the lift they needed to kick on and get a win but once again their inability to see out a game proved their downfall.
Everton have scored just nine goals in their past 13 games and only twice this season have they managed more than one in a match.
“We have to do better,” Lampard said of his side’s lack of attacking threat.
“We have talked about it a lot in terms of what a clinical threat can do in games. To not score enough goals is hard because you can have good periods in games but if you are not scoring it keeps the other team in a game.
“It has been a problem for us, without a doubt.”
Can Lampard turn it around?
The statistics make for worrying reading for Lampard.
They are winless in their past seven Premier League matches – their longest run without a victory within the same season since October to December in 2021, when they failed to win eight in a row under Rafael Benitez.
They have also lost their past four home Premier League games; the first time they’ve lost four in a row on home soil in the league since a run of seven defeats between April and September 1958.
It is now 20 defeats in 37 league games since Lampard was appointed on 31 January last year.
Despite that, Lampard was able to take an Everton side that was low on confidence last season and oversee crucial wins against Manchester United and Chelsea to secure survival.
It is that experience he plans to draw from to turn his side’s fortunes round again.
“I am fortunate in the fact I have been in the game a long time and you become quite tough to these things. It becomes your life,” Lampard said. “The only thing I want to do is bring success to this club.
“In terms of my own abilities I always remain confident in that. I know I am not a miracle worker and I know that I am not the best coach in the world, but I know I will work as hard as I can to be as good as I can be.”
Everton owner Farhad Moshiri also appears confident in Lampard’s ability, having publicly backed him earlier this week.
But for how long that will continue to be the case following this particularly damaging defeat remains to be seen.