Everton’s early pressure
Similar to the way Manchester United setup defensively, Chelsea faced an Everton side that looked to cover the width at the back with numbers, man-mark Hazard, and show Chelsea up the wings to pressure them.
Lukaku and Valencia led the press from the front. Behind them Barkley and Davies moved up to support and get close to Matic and Kante; Gueye man-marked Hazard; Calvert-Lewin dropped to follow Moses all the way back; Holgate was narrow in support and would move out to pressure Alonso; Baines would follow Pedro until he moved too far inside at which point he was handed off to a spare central defender; while the two central defenders were covering Costa. But Everton’s pressure from the front wasn’t of the same intensity, cohesiveness (team moving collectively to block the passes back inside), or consistency as United and they were unable to cause Chelsea enough problems.
In the early stages of the match Everton’s pressing was successful, especially when Chelsea were attempting to move up the left, where Gueye could cause Hazard problems when trying to receive the ball. While Hazard was having difficulty receiving and maintaining the ball, the first-time long diagonal passes from the wing-backs weren’t reaching their targets either (played too long or Everton’s central defenders winning the ball). From here Everton could collect the ball and counter quickly, with Barkley able to carry and play the ball behind, while Calvert-Lewin would join the frontline to make runs behind.
However, where they enjoyed early success (and almost took the lead) in pressing and countering, Everton were (like many before them this season) unable to sustain their pressure on the ball and covering of options around it.
Azpilicueta could find space to move forward into both with the ball and to receive the ball from Costa (breaking Everton’s pressing) before looking to play forward passes.
In the following situation Hazard was unable to control the pass over the top, but it highlights a few problems Chelsea caused Everton: the two central midfielders continuing to get close to Chelsea’s central midfielders (without pressure from the front) opens space behind them; and Hazard’s positioning effectively takes Gueye out of the game, as he isn’t providing support to the central midfielders by following Hazard here, while he is also unable to track Hazard’s runs behind.
Gueye’s man-marking of Hazard was more effective when Chelsea were trying to build with the ball and use Hazard as the option to feet. Gueye could then be aggressive and physical in pressuring Hazard and winning the ball or at least remaining tight and limiting Hazard’s options. Gueye was less successful in being able to match Hazard’s runs in-behind, such as when Hazard broke free to receive the ball from Costa on the counter for his missed chance against Stekelenburg.
Hazard used his positioning well to open spaces for others in the game. Taking up wide positions would continue the open space centrally, while switching positions with Costa would force Jagielka to follow Costa out a big distance away from the backline in order to pressure him receiving the ball.
Another area where Hazard had success was when he was able to lose Gueye (usually during counters) where he could then start the counter instantly by turning past pressure and quickly carrying the ball forward into space (such as when he passed Davies in the first half).
Chelsea find space centrally
With Gueye drawn out of midfield (in a back six to mark Hazard) and Everton’s midfielders needing to cover large areas, the central spaces would prove to be crucial for Chelsea as the game progressed.
While Everton were having problems in midfield, their backline could compensate to prevent most of Chelsea’s attempts to create opportunities. When Chelsea were able to receive and turn with the ball into space, Everton had the numbers back to inevitably force them wide, foul them or win the ball through delaying the attack and the central midfielders getting back. Everton won most of the long aerial balls Chelsea up to the front line, while passes behind were covered and cleared with good timing. When Chelsea did get into crossing positions, Everton continued to dominate in the air and prevent chances for the majority of the game.
However, from early on, there were indications that Chelsea could create chances through long shots if their attacks were delayed. Cahill initially had a shot from distance early on, while Matić was another player able to have a shot from distance after carrying the ball forward.
Chelsea would eventually profit from both having opportunities to shoot from distance as well as the aforementioned switching of markers on Pedro, where Baines would call for someone else to take-over marking duties if Pedro moved too far inside — that someone else ended up being Jagielka on Pedro’s goal.
The space for Pedro was also created by several supporting runs. After playing him the ball, Matić continues his run onto the backline (which causes Davies to follow him all the way back). Meanwhile, Barkley is out wide (by Costa) and Hazard makes a run behind to draw Williams away (Gueye positions himself to prevent the pass to Hazard), which leaves just Jagielka on Pedro.
Everton started well and caused Chelsea’s possession some problems. The marking of Hazard had some positives and negatives, but overall it was probably more of a positive for Everton to reduce his direct influence on the game and restrict Chelsea to counters and long shots. After Pedro’s goal, Chelsea were comfortable to remain compact defensively and prevent Everton creating with organised possession, while creating numerous chances themselves to increase the lead through counters and set pieces.