Following on from an impressive win against Liverpool, it was now time for Merseyside to travel to London as Chelsea faced the blue half of the city with Everton coming to the Bridge. Everton started the evening in 5th place, just a single point behind Chelsea, with tonight’s game presenting Tuchel’s side an opportunity to establish a 4 point lead over their closest challengers. A defeat however, would have seen the club fall out of the top 4 and even fall as far as 6th if West Ham were able to beat Leeds later on in the evening.
The last time these two clubs met saw our visitors run out 1-0 victors through a Gylfi Sigurdsson penalty in a game that kickstarted the decline in performance and results that ultimately cost Frank Lampard his job. Less than 3 months on, Tuchel lead his side into the game looking to extent his unbeaten record as Chelsea manager to 11 games and build on their charge for a top 4 position.
Everton themselves were heading into the game in a good run of form, unbeaten in their last 9 away matches and inform Pickford looking to achieve his 4th clean sheet in a row for the first time in his career.
Chelsea lined up in their expected 3-4-2-1 formation with two noticeable inclusions on either side of the pitch as Kurt Zouma returned to the left side of a 3 man defence against his old club and Kai Havertz getting a start in the false 9 position, flanked by Werner on his right and Hudson-Odoi given an opportunity on his favoured left. The frequently seen midfield under Tuchel of Kovacic and Jorginho got the nod in the centre with James and Alonso tasked with providing the width from wing back.
Everton matched up with a 3 at the back system of their own with Doucore and Bernard dropping out from their victory at West Brom with Allan and Sigurdsson, the latter having scored a penalty against Chelsea earlier in the season, taking their place.
Chelsea started the game on the front foot as they’ve done for the majority of games under Tuchel, with tidy possession in the centre of the pitch, moving the Everton midfield from side to side in an attempt to carve an opening against an Everton side full of energy and discipline. Perhaps inspired by the success they experienced at Anfield, there was clear intent to get the ball forward and behind the Everton defence quickly with Kovacic in particular playing a number of progressive passes for the pacey front 3.
Despite the tidy possession in open play, the first chance of the game came from a well worked corner routine which saw Alonso break out of the box and play a one-two with the corner taker James who cut the ball back to Timo Werner who had cleverly disguised a run to the edge of the box. The German’s finish didn’t match the subtly of his run as his first time effort sailed over Pickford’s bar and into the stands.
In the 15th minute, A powerful Reece James run starting deep from within his own half resulted in a blocked shot which won another early Chelsea corner. Following a defensive clearance from the Everton defence, the ball landed on the right foot of Jorginho’s whose first time volley skidded just outside of a rooted Pickford’s left post.
Chelsea’s movement in attack caused consistent problems for the Everton defence with Hudson-Odoi and Werner regularly switching flanks ahead of Havertz whose movement and intelligent use of the ball consistently created space within the Everton half. Chelsea’s attack was also boosted by the speed in which they turned defence into attack, helped in no small part by Christensen’s consistent ability to bypass the Everton midfield with brave passing through the lines. Everton looked to combat this by having their defenders tightly mark the player in possession, forcing them to receive the ball with their back to goal, however the combined pace, touch and intelligent movement from the front 3 meant that the Blues were able to retain possession more often than not.
Everton’s first chance of the game also came from a set piece when a desperate lunge from Jorginho caught Richarlison on the edge of box and gifted Everton’s array of free kick specialists an opportunity for a free strike at the Chelsea goal. Fortunately, Digne’s effort cannoned off the Chelsea wall for an Everton corner. The following corner caused a slight scramble in the Chelsea box before the Blues were able to clear the ball before any damage was done.
Chelsea finally made the breakthrough in the 30th minute as a smart turn from Hudson-Odoi, midway into the opposition half, caught the Everton defence off guard and opened an inviting gap inside the left hand side of the Everton box for Alonso to exploit. The English winger played a perfectly weighted pass into Alonso’s path, whose precise cut back found Kai Havertz. The German’s first time effort took a hefty deflection off Ben Godfrey before wrong footing Pickford and settling into the near post for an own goal.
A second almost quickly followed as Marcos Alonso was played in behind the Everton defence down the left channel. Despite not possessing the pace to break free of the oncoming defender, the Spaniard positioned himself infront of Holgate and unleashed a left footed effort which forced a smart save from Pickford down at his near post.
Neither side opted to make personnel changes at half time but there was a clear instruction from Ancelotti to press higher up the pitch with Allan actively looking to close down Jorginho whenever the Italian was about to receive possession. In reaction to Everton’s increased press, Chelsea looked to exploit the space in behind with more regularity as Havertz continued to drop deep, creating space for the speedy Werner and Hudson-Odoi to exploit.
The first chance of note came from a Chelsea freekick on the right hand side of the Everton box. Tidy interplay between James and Havertz drew a foul from Lucas Digne who picked up a yellow card for his troubles. From the resulting free kick, Alonso attempted to catch Pickford off guard with a left footed drive towards the top right corner which forced a one handed save and won Chelsea yet another corner.
Chelsea thought they had a second in the 53rd minute as tidy play between Havertz and Kovacic saw the Croatian switch play out to Hudson-Odoi with space to utilise on the left. Hudson-Odoi clipped a delicate lob over the Everton defence which Kai Havertz expertly brought down before lashing it past Pickford into the far post. Celebrations were short lived as the linesman flagged for handball, a decision which VAR agreed with despite replays suggesting that contact may have been higher than the point of the arm which Werner was flagged offside for against Liverpool.
The 60th minute saw Ancelotti make the first personnel change of the game with Tom Davies coming on in place of the ineffective Iwobi. This change also saw a shift to Ancelotti’s infamous diamond formation which many Chelsea fans will recognise from the Italian’s time in charge of the blues. The change almost immediately paid off as Everton instantly created their first chance from open play in an attempt to grab an equaliser. The high Evertonian press catching the Chelsea midfield off guard as a turn over in possession within the Chelsea half saw Sigurdsson play Richarlison in behind Zouma on the right of the Chelsea defence. Fortunately for the Blues, the Brazillians first touch and balance let him down as his effort soared comfortably wide of Mendy’s post.
The Everton ressurgence was short lived as Chelsea doubled their lead minutes later. Kovacic, not for the first time in the evening, played a ball over the top of the Everton defence which Kai Havertz latched on to. The German perfectly timed his touch around the onrushing Pickford, drawing the contact and leaving the referee with no choice but to point to the spot. Pickford’s reaction told the whole story and following a very quick VAR check, Jorginho stepped up to the spot with a hop, skip and a cool right footed finish to Pickford’s right to make it 2-0.
Chelsea’s first switch followed with the ever present Mason Mount coming on in place of Hudson Odoi. The player of the year candidate took up a deeper, more central role than the departing Hudson-Odoi with Werner and Havertz moving towards a more conventional front 2. Mount instantly looked to get involved with a couple of trademark turns, seamlessly turning defence into attack, however his final pass let him down on both occasions and the attacks broke down.
With the game becoming stretch, Tuchel introduced Kante at the 80th minute in place of the excellent Kovacic. Immediately Chelsea looked to utilise the space behind a desperate Everton defence as Azpilicueta played a smart first time pass over the top. Werner did brilliantly to muscle Godfrey off the ball and position himself infront of Pickford, just outside the 6 yard box, however his left footed effort lacked the power or accuracy to beat the English keeper.
Werner then had an excellent opportunity to make instant amends as a quick Chelsea counter attack saw Werner played in behind by his compatriot Havertz. The German striker, on the left hand side of the box this time, looked to finish in the far post but Pickford saved with his trailing leg before getting to his feet quickly to save Kante’s folow up effort from the edge of the box.
Chelsea comfortably saw out the final minutes of the game, keeping possession within the Everton’s half and bypassing the Merseyside club’s press with ease with the final chance of the game falling to Mason Mount who unleashed a dangerous shot from 25 yards out which forced yet another save from the excellent Pickford.
This was yet another statement result and performance from Tuchel’s side as they opened up a 4 point gap over Everton with a favourable run of fixtures ahead of them. It would be easy to look at today’s result and assume Everton didn’t show up but the truth is that Chelsea were excellent from start to finish and gave their inform opposition nothing to work with. This was another example of Chelsea navigating a potentially very difficult fixture with a composed, assured performance that made it look far easier than it actually was.
Like previous performances under Tuchel, the defence were excellent and sniffed out danger instantly before comfortably playing out from the back with composed, considered possession. However, unlike some of the criticisms from previous performances, Chelsea’s attack looked far more dangerous than it had in recent weeks, looking to get in behind at every opportunity and utilising the pace and creativity of a very versatile front 3.
Tuchel has expertly navigated a run of exceptionally tricky games, putting Chelsea in a prime position to solidify their position in the top 4, especially with a run of seemingly favourable league fixtures ahead.
Mendy (7) – Despite not having a lot to do, he dealt with the crosses superbly and never looked at risk of conceding. His commanding presence clearly installs confidence throughout the defence, especially when defending set pieces.
James (7) – Defensively solid whilst offering a constant threat going forward. A couple of driving runs that resulted in either a powerful shot or his trade mark whipped crosses gave Digne an evening he’ll want to forget.
Azpi (7) – Dependable as ever, comfortably dealt with Richarlison on the right and should have had an assist when his wonderful ball in the second half played Werner through
AC (9) – Continued his incredible run of recent form. Composed as ever in possession and showed a lot of bravery in his passing through the lines. Crucial interception in the 81st minute to stop a dangerous looking Everton counter.
Zouma (7) – His aerial ability was a huge asset in defence against a very physical Everton side, could have had a goal himself following a free header from a corner.
Alonso (7) – Wasn’t involved for large portions of the game with the majority of the play heading down the right but he still showed the threat he possesses with a couple of dangerous freekicks and one-on-one that forced a great save from Pickford.
Kovacic (8) [Sub OFF: 80 min] – Had an excellent game in the heart of midfield, showing the desire to play in behind the Everton defence at every opportunity. Progressed the ball expertly through the middle.
Jorginho (7) – Continued his run of good form with composed possession in the centre. Clearly instructed to not press higher by Tuchel which restricts the potential flaws of the Italian. Cool penalty finish to top off a tidy performance.
Hudson Odoi (7) [Sub OFF: 66 min] – Lively throughout the game and always looking to drive at the Everton defence. Did expertly for the first goal and was unlucky to not have a second for the disallowed Havertz strike.
Havertz (9) MOTM – At the heart of everything good about this Chelsea performance, hopefully the catalyst of his Chelsea career as his talents were on clear show. Unlucky to not have a goal himself but played a key role in both goals. Everton couldn’t handle his intelligent movement, first touch and deceptive pace.
Werner (7) [Sub OFF: 90 min] – A game that summed up Werner’s career in a Chelsea shirt so far, worked tirelessly and consistently made dangerous runs but the finishing wasn’t at the required standard. Missed a couple of one-on-ones which a player of his quality should be putting away.
Mount (6) [Sub ON: 66 min] – Busy as ever but his final pass let him down at the key moments.
Kante (7) [Sub ON: 80 min] – Couple of impressive recoveries high up the field which resulted in dangerous counter attacks. Everton scored an Ivanovic-esque header in the 92nd minute to confirm that there is really nothing he can’t do.
Pulisic (N/A) [Sub ON: 90 min] – Not enough time on the pitch to make an impact however impressively fell over his feet more times than he touched the ball.