It's been a pretty miserable weekend of football for most associated with Chelsea. First, the Blues were destroyed by Everton at Goodison Park, a performance so bad that there was absolute no excusing it away with luck or refereeing. Second, the Ivory Coast lost the Africa Cup of Nations final to Zambia on a penalty shootout, which meant that Salomon Kalou and Didier Drogba return from Gabon and Equatorial Guinea empty-handed and presumably pretty annoyed.
But there was some good going on as well, and few will have been happier than Josh McEachran, who made his first start for Swansea and his second overall in the Premier League. I had half an eye on the match while watching Chelsea-Everton, but I wanted to go through it again and take notes on his performance. You can find them in more or less raw form after the jump...
1 min: Receives Danny Graham pass from the kickoff, controls and feeds left back Neil Taylor. Twenty seconds later, Swansea are pressing Forward and McEachran again receives the ball from Graham, this time 30 yards from John Ruddy's goal. Again he passes to Taylor. Taylor passes to Scott Sinclair, who gets the ball back to him, and Josh nearly loses possession under pressure from David Fox. However, he's able to squeeze the ball out to Taylor again, playing a one-two and eventually passing all the way back to Ashley Williams. McEachran gets the ball back from Williams, turning Fox easily in his own half, and after pushing forward, passes to Sinclair, who loses the ball.
2 min: Fails to do much defending while Norwich City while are in possession but the move is by and large out of his jurisdiction. Eventually Swansea recover the ball and try to play out from the back, with Josh receiving the ball under heavy pressure from Elliot Bennett, but is able to feed Neil Taylor anyway with a clever flick. Taylor passes to Sinclair, who loses the ball to Canaries right-back Kyle Naughton. McEachran then intercepts the pass intended for Bennett before being brought down for a foul.
3 min: Norwich have the ball. McEachran's movement seems to lack focus - he's just ambling around near the centre circle without care for the movement of the opposition midfielders.
4 min: Picks up the ball from Williams, doesn't see anything on, so sends it to Steven Caulker.
5 min: Receives the ball from Nathan Dyer, lays it off for Leon Britton. Neil Taylor then sparks a Swansea attack which nearly results in a goal - McEachran doesn't get involved, hanging back very deep. The ball's eventually cleared towards Williams, who then give it to Josh, who's able to squeeze a pass to Sinclair through Fox. Sinclair miscontrols for a throw.
6 min: Norwich have the ball. McEachran doesn't seem to be picking anyone up, although he is occupying space in the middle of the pitch. Once Swansea recover possession, he plays a one-two with Michel Vorm.
7 min: Naughton has the ball, Josh moves to cut off the passing lane to Grant Holt, and Naughton kicks the ball out of play for a goal kick.
8 min: Fails (with Britton) to close down Fox, who lofts the ball over the Swansea defence. Norwich have the ball near the left corner flag, so Josh drops back to the edge of the area. When the ball gets lose, he again seems to dally in the centre rather than picking something to do and sticking with it. Indecisive - although Britton isn't doing much better.
9 min: Receives pass from Williams, attempts breakout pass to Danny Graham. Martin Atkinson gets in the way, however, and the ball bounces to Elliot Ward. Having lost the ball, McEachran tries to occupy passing lanes rather than going and getting it back, which is probably wise considering Norwich's (lack of) technical ability. Once Swansea get the ball back, he offers himself up for a pass from Taylor, which is declined. Graham then receives a lobbed pass that he can't control, and McEachran gets to the ball in front of Fox, although the latter eventually wins possession when Graham tries to take over.
10 min: Norwich have possession on the right, so McEachran drops to the edge of the penalty area. Seeing Bennett expose the ball, he attempts a tackle and clips him instead - it would be a foul if the ball didn't break straight to Fox.
11 min: Goes up for a header against Fox, but Fox starts in a much better possession and McEachran fails to win the ball. Tracks Bennett as the winger tries to advance.
12 min: Tries to put pressure on Grant Holt, who doesn't notice. Eventually after a couple of crosses Josh is able to clear the ball out of the Swansea box, heading to Gylfi Sigurdsson rather than booting clear. Sigurdsson launches an attack which is eventually forced to check back, and McEachran transfers the ball from Britton to Taylor.
13 min: Nothing happens.
14 min: McEachran is at the end of the wall when Anthony Pilkington takes a free kick. Ball gets to Vorm, but it's nothing to do with the defending. Plays a one-two with Vorm when the threat's over, which sets up a long punt forward. Not very Swansea-like.
15 min: Receives from Taylor, passes to Williams, gets the ball back and passes to Sigurdsson, whose control lets him down and gives Norwich possession. McEachran fails to track back quickly enough as the visitors attack down the left.
16 min: Norwich have a corner and McEachran is left very high up the pitch for a counterattack. He receives a layoff from Nathan Dyer and attempts to give the ball back with a first-time lobbed pass. It's not quite right - Dyer has to stretch for it, stumbles and gives the ball away with a poor touch. McEachran actually presses his man this time, closing down Pilkington on the Norwich left. Swansea's defence breaks the attack up and McEachran receives possession from another Dyer layoff about fifteen yards into his own half. He dallies on the ball too long and Andrew Surman can tackle him, with the result a Swansea throw-in.
17 min: Josh makes himself available for an Ashley Williams pass, but the centre back opts to give it to Sinclair instead, who loses the ball. Josh defends adequately, occupying a sensible position in the middle of the pitch, and eventually helps Angel Rangel clear. Norwich attack again, but it's ineffective. Britton mops up, feeding Josh who plays an excellent ball forward to Sigurdsson to launch an attack.
18 min: Tracks Simeone Jackson on a series of throw-ins, but then the actual defenders take over and Norwich end up winning a corner.
19 min: Marks Liam Fox from a throw-in but loses him more or less instantly after the set piece.
20 min: Tries to close down Grant Holt too late, but Vorm saves from corner of area.
21 min: Nothing happens.
22 min: Nothing.
23 min: Supports a Swansea attack, but isn't needed as Dyer and Graham combine for a goal.
24 min: Minute is taken up by a tiff between Holt and Rangel.
25 min: Tries to intercept a quick pass through the centre from Surman but can't quite reach it. No fault in positioning or reaction, just bad luck.
26 min: Tracks Fox, forgets about him when he moves away from centre circle. Looks like zonal marking rather than forgetfulness.
27 min: Closes down Fox on left flank, does well to put pressure on the midfielder and forces him into a bad pass forward. Receives throw-in from Taylor, gives him the ball back.
28 min: Norwich corners. Josh remains upfield despite long period of pressure.
29 min: Receives from Dyer in the centre circle, plays ball to Taylor, gets it back and tries a first-time pass to Sinclair. It reaches him but wasn't the best decision as the winger is knocked off the ball by two Norwich players.
30 min: Nothing.
31 min: Receives from Britton in centre circle, passes back to Williams. Standard stuff.
32 min: Nope.
33 min: Picks up the ball in off Ward's head, looks for an open teammate higher up the pitch, but can't find one and so passes to Taylor. McEachran's looking to play a very quick counterattack here.
34 min: A few seconds after the pass to Taylor Josh then receives the ball from Sinclair. He's forced to return possession to Williams under pressure from Fox. Taylor throws him the ball and the two exchange quick passes before McEachran passes to Britton. Sinclair gets the ball and passes it back to McEachran, whose pass to Britton pushes the ball back towards the defence.
35 min: Cleans up an Adam Drury clearance in the middle (although he needs help from Britton to do so after failing to control initially) and plays forward to Sigurdsson to spark a very neat-looking attack aided by the fact that Drury hurt himself playing the ball out of the box.
36 min: Drury injured, treatment eats up minute.
37 min: Pointless one-two with Vorm. Norwich end up attacking again and this time Josh does much better to track Jackson. That doesn't stop Surman getting a header on target, but Vorm saves.
38 min: Receives from Sinclair, passes to Caulker. Caulker wants to give him the ball back, Josh wants it to go to Williams, and the centre back is slightly annoyed when he has to play the ball back to Vorm after wasting too much time in possession.
39 min: Tries three challenges - one on Holt, which is nowhere close, once on Naughton, which is better, and the last is an aerial battle with Holt. Amazingly, Josh wins the ball cleanly and is able to get the ball to Britton. Much more defensively responsible since the Drury injury.
40 min: Swansea win a corner on the left. McEachran is stationed near the near corner of the penalty area, but the ball goes deep instead. Later offers himself for a pass to Britton, but doesn't get it.
41 min: One-two with Britton fairly deep in the Norwich half as Swansea attempt to build up an attack.
42 min: Nothing.
43 min: Drops back deep to receive the ball from Williams, gives it back and then gets another pass from the defender, who tells him to give it to Caulker, a pass which looks a little too dangerous for my liking. Instead, McEachran pushes slightly forward and opens up space for Williams and then gives him the ball again.
44 min: Tracks Naughton and Bennett down the Norwich right and manages to tackle the former only to see an unlucky bounce take the ball straight to Bennett. Then attempts to close down both Fox and Pilkington.
45 min: Pushes up in support of attack, receives from Sinclair and passes to Sigurdsson inside penalty area. Sigurdsson then turns straight into a defender.
45+1 min: Passing triangle between Taylor, Graham and McEachran. Pretty quiet, but the three passes McEachran plays are good.
45+2 min: Could probably do better with his centre backs on the ball, but Sigurdsson is open so Swansea work it to him instead.
45:3 min: Half ends.
46 min: McEachran fouls Holt on the left touchline fifteen yards into his own half. Attempts a standing tackle from behind with the ball completely shielded. It doesn't work, obviously.
47 min: Norwich score from a (different) free kick. McEachran completely uninvolved, and nothing he could do about it.
48 min: McEachran tries to pick up a loose ball deep in the Norwich half but it's scrambled away before he can get there. Eventually, Britton gives him the ball and then Josh passes sideways to Rangel. Josh a little higher up the pitch now.
49 min: Picks the ball back off the right back, finds himself with time and space to play, and then plants an absolutely gorgeous reverse pass straight through four Norwich players to Danny Graham, who blows the one-on-one with Ruddy. That pass was better than anything a Chelsea player (including Mata) has done all season. McEachran is well outside the box for the resultant penalty.
50 min: Fails to tackle Grant Holt cleanly when presented with a good opportunity, which leads to a bit of a scrum in the centre of the pitch, Norwich emerge with the ball, and McEachran grabs the small of his back in pain. The injury does not appear to linger.
51 min: Norwich score again. Some question about McEachran's positioning here - should he have been on Pilkington for that? Probably not, but you could make that argument.
52 min: Receives from Dyer, passes to Taylor, starting a left-sided attack. Exchanges passes with Sinclair, who switches play.
53 min: Sigurdsson gives Josh the ball twenty yards inside his half as Swansea try to push clear, but Bennett is on him immediately and then Holt dispossesses him.
54 min: Nothing.
55 min: Taylor passes to McEachran, who passes to Sinclair. Standard stuff on the halfway line. The attack goes pretty well and Taylor ends up popping the ball out to McEachran thirty yards from goal. He fails to take the sensible pass to Dyer, however, and goes back to Britton.
56 min: Receives from Dyer at the edge of the area and should probably shoot, but doesn't. Instead, he dances out of the way of a couple of challenges and feeds Britton a little further back. Swansea eventually lose the ball and as Josh tries to get back to cover he gets accidentally smacked in the face by Holt's knee, who had been 'fouled' by Caulker.
57 min: Nothing.
58 min: Picked out by Vorm throw on left touchline, quickly works ball forward to Sinclair and then sprints up to support the attack.
59 min: Passes to Graham in a dangerous position, who makes a bit of a mess of things. McEachran very slow to get into position on resultant counterattack.
60 min: Marks Bennet on a cross near the far post but the ball doesn't reach him. Plays some pretty football with Taylor as they try to escape from a corner, but his final pass is a touch loose and forces Taylor to clear out of play. Attempts to tackle Surman but ball takes unlucky break, then attempts to tackle Fox and misses entirely.
61 min: Bundled over somehow but we're presented with some dude in the booth instead, so no idea what happened. No foul, anyway.
62 min: Receives pass from Willians, gives ball to Britton. Basic stuff.
63 min: Norwich score again. McEachran again slow to cover - even worse than usual. Clearly running out of steam. That said, it's not his responsibility, it's Taylor's. Subbed off for Mark Gower.
So, general thoughts. First of all, the major positive - McEachran is better on the ball than anyone on this Chelsea team with the possible exception of Juan Mata. His pass to Graham at 1-1 was jaw-dropping, and virtually all of his short passes (the ones the likes of Raul Meireles have been making messes of) were inch-perfect. He generally knows what he wants to do before he gets possession, and he's capable of reading the field very well.
McEachran's come in for a little bit of criticism for the performance from Swansea fans, who I think might need a scapegoat for losing to Norwich at the Liberty. Some of that is fair, some isn't. He's been accused of failing to offer himself for passes from the centrebacks, which is ludicrous, and that he's unable to deal with the physicality of the league, which is also silly - he got stuck in more or less whenever there was an opportunity.
The main (realistic) criticism of the performance here was that his defending was well below what was acceptable from a deep midfielder. Josh didn't seem to know who he was supposed to be tracking or what he was supposed to be doing 50% of the time that Norwich had the ball, especially in the centre. I'm not sure if that's a coaching issue or what, but it needs to improve by a lot for him to earn a regular starting place at Swansea, nevermind Chelsea.
All in all, though, it was a pretty encouraging performance for an eighteen-year-old making his second Premier League start.