Everton have an unlikely figure who could emerge as Frank Lampard’s relegation saviour

Fabian Delph has endured a difficult time since joining Everton from Manchester City but could play a big part in the final 11 games of the Premier League relegation battle.

The optimism after the electrifying victory over Newcastle didn't last long.

Fans could savour the feelgood factor for about two-and-a-half days before it diminished.

Another embarrassing away-day loss at Crystal Palace, which saw Everton crash out of the FA Cup, sent any newfound optimists spinning back to reality.

A brief reprieve

Now apathy is once again rife - as it has been for much of the season.

After a brief reprieve, fears of Premier League relegation have reached their pre-Newcastle levels.

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With 11 games remaining, the priority for Frank Lampard is quite simple: top-flight survival.

After the Palace defeat, the Everton boss didn't try to hide how irked he was by some of his players’ performances.

He even questioned if they had the balls to start delivering and avoid the drop.

Marc Guehi celebrates after giving Crystal Palace the lead against Everton. Picture: Tom Dulat/Getty Images

Over the international break, Lampare making the tweaks he believes are imperative to improve.

Working on the fitness of those out injured will also be important.

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And in the final stretch of the season, there could well be an unlikely saviour who comes to the fore.

Much-maligned Delph

Fabian Delph has been much maligned by sections of supporters for much of his Goodison Park career.

Arriving from Manchester City for a fee of around £8.5illion in 2019, he was supposed to help ease the loss of Idrissa Gana Gueye, who'd been sold to PSG.

Delph, after all, was a Premier League veteran who'd just won back-to-back titles at the Etihad.

The England international was earmarked to add nous and help nurture fellow summer signing Jean-Philippe Gbamin and academy graduate Tom Davies.

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However, Delph's time on Merseyside has been quite the opposite. He's managed just 36 appearances in total, with various injuries taking their toll.

When supporters rattle off the players Everton have squandered cash on over the past few years, Delph's name usually crops up somewhere.

But such is Everton's current plight, there are even some of his most ardent detractors who know he could make a marked difference.

Midfield woes

The centre of midfield is proving a problem for Lampard.

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Meanwhile, Abdoulaye Doucoure has been below his best in recent weeks. After providing an initial fillip in the cruel 1-0 loss to Man City on his return from injury, Doucoure's laboured in defeats to Tottenham, Wolves and most recently Palace.

Along with Doucoure, Andre Gomes was the only other senior midfielder available against Palace.

The Portuguese offered little in the way of going forward and completed only 68.8% of his passes.

And when it came to his defensive duties, Gomes was lucky not to have been given his marching orders for persistent fouling.

When Everton do travel to West Ham United in 11 days' time, Donny van de Beek - fitness permitting - is a cast-iron certainty to start.

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Despite a dip in form, Doucoure's not been suited by playing in a two-man midfield he has done in the past two games. The Frenchman is far better when someone is behind screening the defence and gives him the licence to maraud forward.

If fit, the remit of policing the rearguard could well be handed to Delph.

The former Aston Villa man has played only six times this season, but there was a brief spell when he displayed he can offer the added steel Lampard’s desperate for.

Much-needed nous

Delph helped Everton get a foothold back into the game during the 2-1 loss at Wolves in November.

The Toffees, then managed by Rafa Benitez, went into the break two goals behind at Molineux.

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The well-below-par Jean-Philippe Gbamin was hooked at half-time after an insipid display.

Delph provided a calming presence after being introduced, with Allan and Andros Townsend allowed to roam further forward from the engine room.

Everton cut the deficit through Alex Iwobi and there was one excellent, robust challenge from Delph on Rayan Ait-Nouri which was saluted by his team-mates and the away fans alike.

Delph was then handed a starting spot - his first in 11 months - for the Blues' following game against Tottenham at Goodison Park.

It was Antonio Conte's maiden match in charge of Spurs and there was a feel-good factor among the visitors.

Yet the Londoners were largely frustrated and held to a goalless draw, with Delph earning man-of-the-match plaudits.

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It wasn't a mercurial, all-action performance, by no means.

But Delph exuded know-how and composure, which rubbed off on those around him.

He recorded the most tackles of anyone on the pitch (three), the second-most interceptions (two) and had a pass success rate of 87%.

Fabian Delph in action for Everton against Tottenham. Picture: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

Since then, the 32-year-old has managed only a further three appearances.

He hasn't played for Everton since the 3-1 league loss to Palace due to a thigh injury.

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However, Lampard offered positive news on Delph before the international break.

“Delph, we’re hoping the other side of the international break and with a bit of luck can integrate him into training in that period,” the Goodison chief said.

Delph's out of contract in the summer and a departure is likely ahead of a much-needed rebuild.

But having been a villain for most of his three years, Delph could end his time an unlikely hero should he play a prominent part in Everton remaining in the Premier League.