Frank Lampard believes Everton’s improved collective strength of character will be crucial as they prepare for a testing away double-header at Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference ahead of the Spurs match, Lampard also revealed the Club are in talks with in-form midfielder Alex Iwobi over a new contract.
Everton’s positive momentum was checked by a 2-1 defeat to Manchester United last time out, with the result ending the Blues’ seven-match unbeaten run.
They will face another stern examination against third-placed Tottenham on Saturday before a trip to Newcastle – currently sixth in the Premier League – four days later.
Lampard said: “People may make us underdogs in these two matches. I understand that, because we’re away against two strong teams. Let’s enjoy that and show what we can do.
“We’re in a position now where if we take any hits, we have we have to come back stronger.
“We took a lot of hits last season when I came in and before I came in. We were on the floor in terms of confidence. Now we want to be stronger than that mentally, as a club. These games are a big test for us.
“We have got a long way to go. We’re progressing but we mustn’t think we’re near where want to be because we’re not yet. We have work to be done.
“A lot of the big elements are fresh and new – our back four, our midfield three, some players who have not played together a lot… We can’t expect immediate answers, but can we progress every day and get a bit better? That’s in our hands.”
Lampard explained how the depth of talent in his squad is driving standards each day in training, with players battling for a place in his starting XI.
Everton will be without the suspended Anthony Gordon for the Spurs game, while defensive quartet Nathan Patterson, Mason Holgate, Yerry Mina and Ben Godfrey remain unavailable. Read a full team news update here.
Lampard said: “We are missing players, but it feels like we have good competition in lots of areas of the pitch.
“That was partly due to our recruitment and movement of players in the summer, as well as working with players that are developing and getting better.
“At the moment, we’re in a decent place. We are in a stronger position.”
Sunday’s game against Manchester United saw Everton twice made to pay for surrendering possession in midfield, with Erik ten Hag’s side scoring following two swift counter-attacks.
Lampard says Everton will need to be alert and disciplined against a team with similar strengths on Saturday.
“We were very clear going into the Manchester United game that these two matches coming up were against two big counter-attacking teams [United and Spurs],” he said.
“In moments when you’re in good possession, you want to have a structure that means you’re secure if the ball turns over.
“Sometimes, I think the type of turnovers we’ve gave away are very difficult to guard against – otherwise you’d just be playing with 10 players behind the ball, even when you‘re in possession. There are certain elements where you want to open up.
“But can we be a little bit tighter in those moments? For sure.”
On coming up against Tottenham manager Antonio Conte, Lampard added: "He is a great coach. He has had great success in his career. He has a very clear, defined way of playing.
“Tottenham are clearly well coached and they give you a huge threat. They also have fantastic players, of course, and they are a very, very good unit.”
Nigeria international Iwobi has arguably been Everton’s standout performer so far this season and Lampard reiterated his belief the 26-year-old is “currently one of the best central midfielders in the league”.
Iwobi is contracted with the Blues until June 2024 and Lampard outlined the Club’s eagerness to extend that deal.
“I know [Director of Football] Kevin Thelwell is speaking with Alex’s people on that front,” he said.
“Alex’s form has been great. His development has been brilliant. It’s all his work and all I’ve done is try to support him and maybe adapt his position slightly.
“I felt he would be dangerous in the middle area of the pitch. It probably helped that I was a midfield player and I understood that some of the things he had, I wouldn’t want to go up against.
“I felt opening up the pitch centrally was a big help for him. I’ve been so happy with him and I believe, with what he’s got attribute-wise, there is still more to come.”
When again questioned about whether he would like Iwobi to remain at Everton in the long-term, Lampard replied: “For sure.”