It was only fitting to see Frank Lampard’s era at Goodison Park begin with the acquisition of two midfielders who will endeavour to add to Everton’s goal threat, as Dele Alli and Donny van de Beek prepare to learn from one of the finest lynchpins that the Premier League has had to offer.
Despite his popularity in all quarters, Duncan Ferguson’s brief time in interim charge of Everton started and ended with a 1-0 home defeat to Aston Villa courtesy of Emiliano Buendia’s header – Steven Gerrard certainly enjoyed that one – and a Toffees side under the tutelage of Rafael Benitez only scraped past Hull in the FA Cup after 120 minutes.
Avoiding a catastrophic relegation and attempting to clamber back up to the top half of the Premier League rankings will be the ultimate goal for Lampard over the next few months, but a cup run would serve to increase the morale in Everton’s ranks after a dismal autumnal and festive period.
Early exits have become something of a habit for Everton in the FA Cup, though, with the Toffees only making it to the fifth round or beyond once in the last five editions as they bowed out to Manchester City in the quarter-finals last year.
Defeat to Villa marked a fifth home loss from their last seven in front of their own fans for Everton, and the return of ‘Super Frank’ to the Premier League touchline will be overshadowed by the deadline-day signing of another celebrated name for the visitors.
Many feared that Christian Eriksen’s days on a football pitch were over after the Denmark international’s terrifying cardiac arrest in front of fans, teammates and family at Euro 2020, but only eight months later, the playmaker is ready to pull on the red and white jersey of Brentford.
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Eriksen’s return to the Premier League is a heart-warming story for all involved who managed to save both his life and playing career, as well as fans of football in general, and the ex-Tottenham Hotspur man will undoubtedly feel in good hands under compatriot Thomas Frank.
On a more pessimistic note, the relegation fears have not been eased just yet for the Bees, who enter Saturday’s game having just lost their fourth on the bounce in the Premier League – 2-1 to Wolverhampton Wanderers courtesy of Joao Moutinho and Ruben Neves’s efforts.
Brentford needed no second invitation to stamp their authority on Port Vale’s turf in the third round of the FA Cup, but they have fallen at this stage in the past two editions of the tournament, coincidentally to Leicester City on both occasions.