Everton hosted Chelsea in the Premier League as the Toffees looked to bounce back from throwing away a two-goal lead at Newcastle United in their last outing. Chelsea arrived on Merseyside with many questions to answer themselves as they pursue a place in next season’s Champions League.
Going into the fixture, both managers were feeling the pressure after underwhelming seasons for their respective teams. Despite significant investment in the last few years, Everton have seemingly taken a scattergun approach to recruitment. A revolving door of coaches meaning they lack a real identity to their play.
So far Marco Silva has yet to really change this. The highest placed team they had beaten so far this season was Leicester City in 10th. With home defeats such as the humbling 6-2 home loss to Spurs casting doubt over the Toffees manager, a statement win against one of the Premier League’s better teams would give the Portuguese coach some much needed breathing space.
Chelsea arrived at Goodison Park with Maurizio Sarri also under heavy scrutiny, having so far failed to replicate the thrilling football that took Serie A by storm in 2017/18 with Napoli. A performance and result were required on Merseyside to relieve some of the pressure off of the Italian coach.
As it transpired, Everton ran out 2-0 winners in a game that neither team especially impressed in.
As expected, both sides lined up as expected. Everton opted for a 4-2-3-1 with Andre Gomes alongside the busy Idrissa Gana Gueye in central midfield. Colombian Yerry Mina replaced Kurt Zouma at centre back, who couldn’t compete against his parent club. Up front Silva chose the hustle and bustle of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, supported by Gylfi Sigurdsson as the number 10.
Chelsea were in a familiar 4-3-3 shape, with Ross Barkley selected ahead of Mateo Kovacic as one of the pair of Chelsea eights alongside N’Golo Kante. After impressing in midweek against Dynamo Kyiv, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Olivier Giroud were restored to the bench, as Sarri stuck rigidly to his base shape and trusted personnel.
On paper, this was a straightforward 4-3-3 vs 4-2-3-1 match-up, with no natural overloads in midfield or out wide. It promised to be an interesting tactical battle revolving around whether either side’s movement within their starting framework could affect the game, or whether individual quality would make the difference.
Everton’s defensive scheme
The game soon developed into a fairly predictable pattern as Chelsea looked to seize control of the ball, with Everton dropping into a mid-block 4-4-2 out of possession. The main objective for Everton was to prevent central progression through Jorginho. As a result, Sigurdsson was tasked with shadowing the Italian all game.
Here Dominic Calvert Lewin and Sigurdsson worked closely together but slightly staggered to prevent a straight pass through them to Jorginho. Both worked extremely diligently as Sigurdsson showed excellent awareness to keep Jorginho in his cover shadow for most of the game.
This excellent work meant Chelsea were forced to build down the flanks early on. Sigurdsson was quick to cover around as the ball was played out wide to screen possible passes inside to Jorginho. Notice here how he is checking his shoulder to be aware of Jorginho’s positioning.
This set-up from Silva, which was excellently applied on the field by Sigurdsson, meant Jorginho was kept quiet until his 74th minute substitution. The Italian struggled to get on the ball as much as usual, and was under constant pressure when he was able to receive the ball.
This revealed a weakness in Jorginho’s game that continues to be exploited in the Premier League. He lacks individual possession skills in order to protect the ball and outplay opponents that press him.
Here he receives the ball which triggers Sigurdsson to press. With his teammates marked he is unable to protect the ball or dribble out of pressure.
In this instance Jorginho is easily dispossessed by Sigurdsson as he attempts to dribble clear of him. As the lone deep lying midfielder this turnover prompts a dangerous counter-attack against an unprotected back line. In what became a common theme of the game, Everton failed to make best use of a promising attacking situation.
In this scenario, Everton have once again prevented Chelsea from playing centrally, and have forced the play out wide. This initiates Everton’s press as they block the route down the wing and force Chelsea backwards.
Notice again how Sigurdsson has Jorginho in his cover shadow. On the whole Everton’s defensive strategy was sound, as they prevented Chelsea from building their attacks through the middle, forcing turnovers in promising situations where they were wasteful on the attacking transition.
Chelsea in possession
As expected, Chelsea dominated the ball and were able to fashion the best chances of the first half despite Everton’s well thought out defensive scheme. With players such as Eden Hazard and Pedro, they will always remain a threat.
Whilst they struggled to play through Jorginho, they used the wings, particularly down the left flank to expose the weaknesses in the right side of Everton’s defensive structure. The majority of Chelsea’s best opportunities came from overloading Everton’s right flank, with Marcos Alonso pushing high up the field, Eden Hazard mixing up his positioning either wide or inside and Ross Barkley and Gonzalo Higuain moving towards the left to offer further support.
With an ageing Seamus Coleman and Michael Keane not being the most mobile of defenders, coupled with the irregular tracking back of Richarlison, this was an obvious area to target.
This instance also demonstrated an issue Everton have faced all season. Their press is reasonable enough in preventing their opponents to build up, but all hell breaks loose once that press is broken.
Notice here the completely disorganised back four, with Keane and Mina drawn towards the ball leaving masses of space either side of them. Coleman has been left stranded pressing Alonso with no Richarlison in sight, as Hazard has ghosted in behind him to receive. His eventual shot rebounds off the post.
Despite dominating the ball, and finding some joy down their left flank as shown, this was another underwhelming example of how Chelsea are able to dominate the ball without doing a great deal with it – a far cry from the fast direct combination play and central penetration that defined Napoli under Sarri. Often Chelsea resorted to speculative lofted or chipped balls over the top, or on Eden Hazard doing something out of the ordinary.
Everton in possession
In the first half Everton really failed to make an impact in possession, despite Chelsea looking extremely vulnerable at times. Better use of the ball could have really exposed the Londoners.
In this instance Chelsea are pressing Everton’s build-up with Jorginho stepping up to press Gomes. As the lone holding midfielder, notice the huge space he has left behind him. As well as this Chelsea show poor horizontal compactness where Pedro has allowed Bernard to go untracked inside.
Away from the ball Ross Barkley has not shifted inside to cover Gueye. Here Everton do not manage to exploit this structural weakness, one that has been an issue for Chelsea all season.
Once more Chelsea are not particularly compact defensively but Everton do not take advantage. Here Gomes receives the ball but suffers from a lack of movement ahead of him, particularly in exploiting the gap in the inside channel which is once again unguarded by Chelsea as Jorginho does not shift across to cover. There is also a huge distance between Rudiger and Azpilicueta which could have been exploited by a run in behind.
Eventually Bernard recognises the gap in between the lines, with Digne pushing up into the recently vacated space, but it is too late. Gomes is forced to turn and play backwards. This is indicative of Everton under Silva; the idea was good, but the lack of timing in their movement and execution let them down.
Everton take the lead
Despite offering virtually nothing as an attacking force in the first half, Everton took an early lead just after the break from a set piece.
With Chelsea set up in a zonal marking system, Everton showed some clever movement to clear space for Calvert-Lewin to attack the ball on the run as the three near-post players make runs away from goal outside the line of the near post. Due to Chelsea’s zonal system, Calvert-Lewin has the run on Luiz and wins his header. Despite Kepa saving, Richarlison reacts quickest. No Chelsea player shows any awareness of defending the second action as the Brazilian heads into the roof of the net.
Everton resolve right-sided issues
Credit should go to Marco Silva. The problems Chelsea were posing down Everton’s right hand side were clearly identified at half time and acted upon.
Richarlison played in a more withdrawn role, and noticeably tracked back with more diligence, allowing Coleman to stay compact with the back four. Gueye was also quicker to shift across and cover the inside channel. This prevented Chelsea from breaking through in the inside channel as often as they had done in the first half.
A hint of Sarriball?
It took 63 minutes before we got a glimpse of what we imagined a Maurizio Sarri Chelsea may look like. Finally Chelsea were able to play centrally, and use quick combinations in the final third to create an opportunity to score.
In a move started by David Luiz, finally Chelsea were able to free Jorginho. They crafted an opportunity to play forward which triggered an up, back and through combination as Higuain played a lay-off to Kante who in turn played in Barkley. This was the first time in the game Chelsea’s number eights had found themselves close to Higuain and behind Everton’s midfield to combine.
What will be worrying though for Sarri is how easy it was for Everton to prevent such a move occurring for much of the game.
Throw-in routine leads to Everton penalty
Maybe Liverpool aren’t the only team on Merseyside who are exploiting the potential of throw-ins. A simple but effective routine led to the penalty call which wrapped up the three points for the Toffees.
As Coleman takes the ball to throw in, Richarlison moves towards the corner flag which draws the attention of both Alonso and Loftus-Cheek, thus opening a passing lane inside. Sigurdsson initially acts as if he is disinterested before smartly moving to receive in front of Jorginho, using a double movement to lose the attentions of the Italian.
Jorginho is not the most capable of defenders at the best of times. Coleman simply follows his throw, with Sigurdsson laying the ball off for the Irish international to break into the box. An ensuing loose ball allowed Richarlison to nip in and win a penalty after being clipped by Alonso.
This simple routine demonstrated the enormous potential of throw-in routines, whereby Everton were able to move opponents to open advantageous situations to exploit. With Sigurdsson converting the rebound after his initial penalty was saved, Everton had a slightly fortuitous two-goal advantage, albeit following two successful set-piece routines.
Chelsea substitutions make little impact
In chasing the game Sarri turned to his bench for inspiration, with Loftus-Cheek and Giroud replacing Barkley and Higuain at 1-0 whilst remaining with the 4-3-3 shape. At 2-0 he hauled off Jorginho for English youngster Callum Hudson-Odoi to add an extra attacker.
Whilst Loftus-Cheek and Hudson-Odoi both looked bright and composed, they were unable to turn the tide in a game where Chelsea once again ran out of ideas, and lost any sense of coherence in their attacking play. Once again they were hoping for individual quality to shine through, as a succession of crosses and speculative chipped balls were played more in hope than expectation.
As the game wore on, David Luiz assumed the role of chief playmaker, but was starved of options ahead of him. Here the three closest midfielders to him are static and marked, and not offering a passing lane for the Brazilian. This made it very comfortable for Everton to see out the game without much drama.
The Toffees were content to drop into a straightforward, compact 4-4-2 block which was able to contain Chelsea with relative ease. The game petered out exactly how they would have liked, to give the Goodison Park crowd their first taste of success against one of the top six in the League for quite some time.
In truth, this was a poor quality game with a pair of teams struggling relative to their pre-season expectations. Whilst Everton ran out winners on the day, they were far from impressive on the ball and remain very much a work in progress for Marco Silva. There were some encouraging signs in their pressing set-up, but their back line can be shaky and their attack lacks a certain coherence to provide a consistent threat. Credit must go to Marco Silva for his half-time change which helped secure his team’s right sided defensive issues.
Chelsea yet again demonstrated the same flaws that have undermined them all season, flaws which Sarri has not yet addressed in his time at the club. They remain painfully open and vulnerable in transition, as well as practicing a sterile possession game that relies more on individual quality than a coached process.
This game could have gone either way, but the only real truth to be gained from this game is that both sides provided more questions than answers in this less than inspiring 90 minutes of football.
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