Everton 1-0 Chelsea
In the past few seasons, Everton have had the upper hand over Chelsea, especially when the London club have visited Merseyside. Ancelotti was sacked right after the game back in 2011, and AVB only a few weeks after the defeat to Everton. On their last visit though, ‘The Interim One’, Benitez guided the Blues to victory, but no such result awaited Jose Mourinho today.
Everton were looking for their first win of the season, and their first win under new manager Roberto Martinez. The Toffees have had a mixed start to the season, with 3 draws coming from their three games. The defence has looked a bit shaky, and finishing also needed some fine tuning, but the midfield was doing very well, with Everton being the side with the highest average ball possession in the league coming into the game.
Chelsea are still searching for their first win away from home this season. It was going to be no easy task, as this was an Everton side that hadn’t conceded at Goodison for almost 10 hours, and had lost only 1 home game last season- to Chelsea. A win would have taken Chelsea to the top of the rudimentary table, but it was not to be.
Both sides lined up with very similar shapes. The 4-2-3-1 which has become the standard was employed by both managers, but slightly differently. Everton brought Barry into the side to replace Fellaini in the centre of the park. Steven Naismith celebrated his 27th birthday by starting (and eventually scoring the winning goal) in place of the injured Steven Pienaar.
Chelsea handed a debut to the legendary African striker, Samuel Eto’o ahead of Fernando Torres. Juan Mata started in the ‘Number 10′ role, with Hazard and Schurrle flanking him. David Luiz returned to the starting 11. Mikel was chosen to accompany Ramires in central midfield.
Many teams that follow the ‘Barcelona Philosophy’ tend to leave three men at the back while going forward. Everton under Martinez have been no different. However, there is a tweak in their system that helps them to utilise wing play and the aerial threat that Nikica Jelavic poses. When one of the full backs gets forward, the other full back stays deep, making up three in defence. The central midfielder usually pushes back in such a system, but with Martinez opting to utilise width and crosses, the presence of central midfielders just outside the opposition box is an important factor. That’s why the full back is used to cover, as opposed to a deep lying central midfielder. Another feature that allowed Everton to attack with width, especially through Coleman was that both their wide forwards were playing narrow. Barkley, Jelavic, Mirallas and Naismith played in a diamond, with the aim being to provide more bodies at the end of crosses, as well as get people around Jelavic for him to flick the ball to.
Off the ball though, it was a different story. In what was a Moyes-ish defensive performance, The Toffees shifted into a 4-4-1-1 when Chelsea got the ball. The midfielders worked incredibly hard in order to close down the Chelsea midfield, with Osman being a stand out performer (6 tackles, 4 interceptions). Gareth Barry too, did fantastically well to continuously break Chelsea’s rhythm with a number of niggling fouls. The Englishman committed 5 fouls, and managed to get through the game without picking up a yellow card.
Chelsea also lined up in 4-2-3-1, but their attacking strategy aimed to use the inter-play between the front 4, and their pace. Schurrle constantly made runs in behind the Everton defence. Mikel was played to sit just in front of the defenders in order aid in stopping the aerial attack from Everton. While Terry was the in direct combat with Jelavic more often than not, Mikel was around in order to intercept the second ball.
Due to the fact that both teams were in a 4-2-3-1, there wasn’t much space for any one player to express himself, especially in forward areas, and the game descended into individual battles. In order to counter this, Chelsea got Luiz on the ball a lot more. The Brazilian defender didn’t have any-one directly against him, as Terry occupied Jelavic, and has the ball playing ability to influence the game. This saw Luiz taking on the role of the play-maker for Chelsea. He happened to have 77 touches during the game, the second highest, and completed 63 passes at a rate of 86%. Another implication of this was Mata dropping deep. As Manchester City showed last season, Mata can be made ineffective when he is forced deep, and the 4-4-1-1 did just that to the diminutive Spaniard. This also made it hard for the likes of Hazard, who was almost always surrounded by more than 1 defender.
The other tactic that Chelsea used was side to side passing. Everton had a lot of bodies in their own half, and Chelsea tried a number of long horizontal passes to stretch the Everton defence, but this didn’t work out to well for the Londoners.
Last season, Chelsea were rightly criticised for being too slow at times. This season, Mourinho has looked to make the attacking transition a lot quicker. This worked out very well in the first half against Hull, but hasn’t really been working since then. The team was too direct, and as a result, couldn’t really play to their strengths, which is allowing their play-makers space to pull opposition defences apart. A lot of passes were hit behind the Everton defence, looking to find the run of either Eto’o or Schurrle, but this tactic was quite unsuccesful. Credit must also be given to the Everton midfield, who worked really hard to deny time and space to the likes of Mata.
After Everton got the lead, they defended stoutly, and kept Chelsea away for the most part. However, what was quite disappointong from a Chelsea perspective was the manner in which the Blues fell apart.
Everton took Jelavic off, and put the quick Mirallas up top. Chelsea were chasing the game, and the running from Mirallas was very good, as the Chelsea defence was stretched vertically, making it hard for them to put together good passing strings. Barkley was played on the left, but he was effectively another central midfielder, looking to stop Chelsea playing.
Chelsea on the other made changes and eventually ended up with Ramires at right back, and David Luiz at left back. Lampard and Mikel were playing in the middle of the park, and Eto’o, Torres, Hazard and Oscar played up front as Chelsea got desperate for a goal. This approach, however, was doomed for failure, as the players couldn’t hold their shape. Everton, and the home crowd, did well to ruffle the Blue feathers, as Chelsea lost the game along with their composure.