There was a moment late on Monday, as Tottenham kept the ball and Everton pursued it forlornly, when Frank Lampard’s face told you everything.
The colour had drained away, his stare was cast a thousand yards and more. There was no hint of fury, just the blankness you associate with sudden shock. And Lampard had every reason to be shocked, as his mind wandered into the future.
With Everton having conceded five goals in a display that was met with widespread derision, now he truly knows what it feels like to manage the club in the era of Farhad Moshiri – where calamity and crisis are never far away.
Problems are continuing to mount at Everton after Monday night’s 5-0 defeat at Tottenham
Lampard could not have expected to understand what Rafa Benitez, Carlo Ancelotti, Marco Silva, Sam Allardyce and Ronald Koeman had gone through just 35 days into his reign but there is now a shared experience between these six men. This was the eighth time in the last five years, across all competitions, that Everton had conceded five or more goals in a single game.
Managers have come and gone but leopards do not change their spots and this particular group are capable of capsizing at any given moment.
Inevitably, there will be those who feel the buck must stop with Lampard. In this kneejerk world, where blame simply has to be apportioned, they will look at his record of four defeats in five Premier League games as a sign that things are not working.
It is rubbish, of course. Bringing Lampard in on January 31 and expecting Everton to be mid-table by March 8 was the equivalent of asking Gordon Ramsay to go into a kitchen 20 minutes before closing time, handing him a can of spaghetti hoops and demanding Michelin-quality food in return.
There have been good moments in this opening period of his reign. The energy around Goodison Park after a 3-0 victory over Leeds was as good as any point since the days of David Moyes, a glimpse of how things should be.
Outside of matchdays, Lampard and his staff are doing all they can to tap into the players and help them improve. Lampard has taken a particular shine to Anthony Gordon, with whom he has been having regular tutorials, while he has been eager to keep Tom Davies involved.
Davies suffered a serious injury last November, one that means he might not play again this season, but Lampard and his assistant Joe Edwards have had meetings with him and put together video clips for him to study so he understands the 43-year-old’s playing style when he returns.
What scenario Davies will return to, however, is anyone’s guess. Everton are plummeting like a paving stone into the sea and if anyone still believes this club cannot go down, they have not been paying enough attention to the mess that Moshiri has overseen.
For instance, why did he sanction deals for full backs Vitaliy Mykolenko and Nathan Patterson in January, worth a combined £30million, when neither look up to the required standard? It says everything that Jonjoe Kenny, who is out of contract this summer, plays ahead of them both.
Lampard is the Iranian billionaire’s sixth manager since February 2016. Kevin Thelwell, the new director of football, is the third man to hold that position after Steve Walsh and Marcel Brands and the challenge facing this partnership is arguably the hardest in living memory.
If they go down, the financial picture – muddied in the past week by the severed link to Alisher Usmanov – has the potential to be ruinous. Clubs tend to put 20 per cent relegation pay cut clauses in their contracts but Everton’s squad do not have them.
Everton used to be careful when handing out deals but of late players have arrived on Merseyside to numbers that resemble lottery wins.
James Rodriguez epitomised the largesse – he was on £13m a season – but there have been other remarkable examples of expenditure. Lucas Digne, for instance, was given terms worth almost £7m a season when he extended his deal last February. How, without European football, was it sustainable? It left Everton in a position last summer where they had to offload and Benitez was the man who had to try to wheel and deal to find a winning formula. A man with vast experience, his idea was to play 4-4-2 with wingers getting crosses into the box.
Yes, it could be described as rudimentary football but Benitez had looked at the squad in front of him and quickly realised there was not enough quality to play the style that Moshiri wanted.
He never called the players out publicly but there was a tell-tale quote on October 22 last year. ‘One thing I want to be very clear is that I’m trying to improve every single department,’ he warned.
Benitez had seen the dangers on the horizon and knew the only way to tread water was by getting the players he had inherited to raise their game. He could not do it and was jettisoned in January after a run of one win in 13 games.
Can Lampard find the improvement? If he doesn’t, Everton are going in only one direction.
It should not be a reflection on him. It says more about what they have become and on Tuesday there was a poignant reminder of how things have changed. Gordon Lee, who managed the club from 1977 to 1981, passed away aged 87.
Some look at his reign as a disappointment but in his four years, there were two top-four finishes, two FA Cup semi-finals and one League Cup final appearance. What they would do for that now.