Two defensively strong teams were exposed by each other in a thrilling encounter at Goodison Park. Chelsea came out victorious in this Premier League campaign’s first high scoring match.
Aiden McGeady, who did not start for the Toffees last weekend, despite a good performance against Leicester City, was included in the starting XI. Rest of the Everton squad was same from their last week’s match against Arsenal.
Diego Costa recovered from a minor muscle injury and was declared fit. Brazilian Willian replaced Andre Schurrle on the right. Ramires was the extra-man in midfield and came on for his compatriot Oscar.
Surprise start by Chelsea –
Chelsea scored their first goal in the 36th second of the match and caught Everton by surprise. Everton, who try to control possession and dominate from the kick-off, had no answer to Diego Costa’s strike. To add to their worries, the Toffees conceded another goal in the 3rd minute. Two goals from two shots was much more than what Everton players could really take. It took them another 8 to 10 minutes to get a foothold on the game.
Matic and Ramires –
In the centre of the field, Chelsea’s midfield trio took on Everton’s midfield trio. At some point in the game, when Chelsea were leading 2-0, it seemed that Nemanja Matic was man-marking Steven Naismith. Was all over the field in Chelsea’s half to stop Everton’s counterattacks. Covered for Chelsea’s wing backs by shifting from left to right based on Everton’s play. Matic also popped into space outside Everton’s box to offer an extra pair of legs while attacking. Also scored a goal.
Whenever Naismith dropped to midfield or drifted wide, he was accompanied by Matic. This gap was supposed to be filled by Ramires, who was playing beside Matic in Chelsea’s 4-3-3ish setup. Ramires was used as a box to box midfielder by Mourinho – defending along Chelsea’s central defenders at one instant and running with the ball to feed Costa in another. Picked balls in deep positions, played quick 1-2s with Matic or Fabregas and strode higher up the pitch.
Everton response –
Everton regrouped after conceding two early groups and tried to open Chelsea’s defence by attacking through the middle. Wingers were mainly involved in the midfield region – McGeady and Mirallas tried to cut in. Romelu Lukaku played between Gary Cahill and John Terry while Naismith roamed around in the space in front of Chelsea’s defenders. The wing backs rarely made it across the half way line during this period.
Finding it tough to break Chelsea’s resilient defence by attacking through the middle, Everton switched wide. This was done mainly to take advantage of Chelsea’s narrow defending and to add two extra-men to their attack (Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman).
Everton target flanks –
As time passed on, Chelsea decided to sit deep and defend. Roberto Martinez pushed his two wing backs higher up the pitch and asked his midfielders to press higher up the pitch to regain possession as quickly as possible. This left only Sylvian Distin and Phil Jagielka at the back.
Initially Baines stayed deep, to stop Ivanovic from overlapping Willian and moving into the space behind Everton’s defence. But when Everton found the rhythm he too got involved in attacks.
Coleman targeted the space behind Azpilicueta. Coleman, McGeady and McCarthy overloaded Chelsea’s left back position. Last week Mesut Ozil was targeted and this time Martinez’s men tried to take advantage of the defensive weakness of Hazard.
It was Martinez’s plan to start attacking from the left and then suddenly switching the play to right to catch Azpilicueta and Hazard by surprise. McGeady played a main role in switching the play. Everton scored their first goal by passing the ball from the left, congested due to the presence of Ramires and Willian, to the right where Hazard did not notice Coleman’s run. Naismith scored Everton’s second goal when McGeady ran from the middle of the pitch and passed the ball to Naismith, who was making a run into the box from the left.
Martinez’s philosophy against Chelsea was to cut short the passes from Matic and Ramires to Fabregas. When given adequate time on the ball, Fabregas is capable of creating goal scoring chances. So Gareth Barry, James McCarthy and Naismith were involved in pressing in the midfield region. The need to score goals and reduce the difference between the two teams made midfield pressing essential as the game progressed.
From this picture it is very clear that Everton’s intention was not to let Chelsea counterattack during the breaks. Point to note – Everton made very few tackles while defending. Everton’s defenders rarely pressed and tried to win the balls while Chelsea were attacking.
To help the midfielders while pressing, Lukaku dropped into the region between Matic and Ramires. This created space for Naismith in front of Cahill and Terry. Whenever either of them tried to close down the gap, a hole was created in Chelsea’s defence.
Everton dominated the game in terms of possession. But they could not do much because of a resilient back four of Chelsea. Chelsea displayed first class counter attacking. Ramires was the extra addition – his pace and ball winning capability gave Chelsea an upper hand.
Diego Costa, with four goals from three matches, has made a superb entry to Premier League. His hunger for goal, positioning, clever movements in the final third and above all, his physique will have an enormous effect on the way Chelsea attack, something they lacked in the previous two seasons.