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Tactical Analysis

Tactical Analysis: Chelsea 3-3 Everton | Poor defensive structure and offside trap

James Sutherland writes a detailed tactical analysis about the Premier League match that ended Chelsea 3-3 Everton.

Chelsea and Everton met on Saturday at Stamford Bridge, both needing a win. Since Guus Hiddink replaced Jose Mourinho in December, Chelsea hadn’t lost a game, but had only picked up 1 win in 4. Everton, meanwhile, had also failed to win in that period, drawing with both Tottenham and City. Both Hiddink and Roberto Martinez wanted a win to placate fans and get their top four challenges back on track.



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Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Courtois; Azpilicueta, Terry, Zouma, Ivanovic; Matic, Mikel; Pedro, Fabregas, Willian; Costa

Everton (4-2-3-1): Howard; Baines, Jagielka, Stones, Oviedo; Besic, Barry; Mirallas, Barkley, Lennon; Lukaku

The game was open throughout, although neither team managed to get a good chance in the first half. The second half saw 6 goals, mainly because both teams started to convert the opportunities they created.

Everton took advantage of the space between Chelsea’s lines to pull apart John Terry and Kurt Zouma, opening space for Kevin Mirallas to run through on goal.

Diego Costa, on the other hand, made constant runs behind Everton’s high line. The Toffees played a good offside trap, but in the end were playing with fire and gave up a goal.

Chelsea’s Poor Defensive Structure

Chelsea used a double pivot, as they have for three seasons, in front of the back four. Nemanja Matic came back into the team and played alongside John Obi Mikel, replacing Oscar. Cesc Fabregas, Matic’s normal partner in the pivot, was pushed forward and played in the no. 10 slot where Oscar had played.

Many saw Hiddink’s move to play two (nominal) defensive midfielders in the pivot as a pragmatic one. He was trying to shut down Everton’s attacking flow, and Chelsea would thus sit a little deeper and attack through the counter.

Chelsea did anything but that. The midfield five and Costa often pressed high up the field, pushing Everton back when they could. While this strategy did create chances, especially since John Stones often sat on the ball and failed to clear it, it also opened up massive amounts of space.

Hiddink did not instruct the backline, and specifically Terry and Zouma, to press high up as well. This lack of cohesion was compounded by the fact that neither Mikel nor Matic ever sat deep enough to cover the backline. This left massive amounts of space behind the pivot, and in front of the center backs.



In the above graphics, Matic and Mikel are pressing high. Everton work the ball around them and onto the wing, with plenty of space for Mirallas, Barkley, Lennon and Lukaku to attack in.

While this strategy might have worked better with another center back pairing, Terry and Zouma were ill-suited. Terry simply doesn’t have the athleticism to cover lots of open ground, and backed off Lukaku on numerous occasions, afraid he would lose a foot race.

Zouma, on the other hand, is able to play a high line, but doesn’t have the positional discipline to do so. He was often caught out, chasing the ball into midfield or the wing, leaving space between him and Terry.

Everton exploited this space by having Lukaku drop off the center backs, holding up play. Then Lennon and Mirallas would make runs behind the backline, pushing Zouma and Terry back, in turn opening more space for Lukaku and Barkley.

Hiddink took Matic off early in the second half, and brought on Oscar. Fabregas pushed deeper, and Oscar filled in the 10 spot. This, however, did nothing to abate Everton’s pressure, and Everton scored again from open play after the substitution.

Everton’s High Line and Offside Trap

Everton tried to play a higher line as well, although Chelsea’s press did not allow them to do this until later in the first half. Their central pairing of Stones and Jagielka were better suited to do this. Stones particularly could easily fit into a Pep Guardiola/Jurgen Klopp side, with his athleticism.

However, Chelsea recognized Stones’ weakness on the ball. Stones often dribbled, trying to play out from the back, instead of clearing it. Chelsea focused their press on the England International, trying to force him to turn the ball over.

Everton very successfully applied an offside trap throughout the game, catching Costa off 3 times.



Here Fabregas puts Costa through on goal with a great pass, but Stones and Jagielka stop it with a perfectly executed offside trap.

While the offside trap was excellent and the backline played high enough to contribute to the attack, the midfield failed the team. They didn’t press Chelsea’s midfield enough to break Fabregas’ rhythm.

This left Fabregas with enough time on the ball to pick out passes around and over Everton’s high line, and the offside trap didn’t save them every time.



In the above photo, Costa’s first goal, Fabregas is left alone in midfield after Everton turn over the ball. He composes himself, and then picks out Costa making a run behind. His ball is spot on, and though Jagielka and Tim Howard could have done better to clear, credit must go to Costa for chasing it down and finishing well.


Both teams should feel disappointed with the result. Chelsea will be happy, however, since they came back from down 2 goals, and then down a goal with a minute left, but Hiddink’s tactics should be questioned.

Everton will be much more disappointed, given that they led late in the game yet again, and yet again lost two points. Martinez will need to take a look at his tactics and personnel, and see what needs to be changed to gain results.

Written by James Sutherland

James Sutherland

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