We’ll undoubtedly be told that Dele Alli and Frank Lampard are a good combination at Everton because Dele is a modern equivalent of Lampard. In truth, though, beyond the fact Dele is English and made his name as a goalscoring midfielder, they’re actually entirely different.
The comparison is particularly obvious now, after a dramatic transfer deadline day on Merseyside when Everton first confirmed Lampard’s appointment as manager, then announced Dele’s signing from Tottenham on a free transfer, with potential add-ons to be paid at a later date. But the comparisons between the two have been around for many years.
“Alli has different strengths to me and now he is playing that bit further forward,” Lampard told Sky Sports back in 2017. “His responsibility as a defender has completely gone. I have to say I agree with that decision, because when he’s so clinical, when he makes such good runs around the box and is scoring so often — with two really solid midfield players behind him — why does he need to get involved in that?”
Lampard was making the point that Dele wasn’t really a midfielder who broke forward to the edge of the box; he was a support striker who went in behind.
Jamie Carragher said something similar that year, in a column for the Daily Mail. “It is likening apples to oranges,” he wrote. “When (Steven) Gerrard and Lampard were 21, they were playing as one of a pair in central midfield without the licence to maraud forward.