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Chelsea 2-0 Everton, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

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The return of Chelsea’s 343 provides stability in possession

Chelsea with the ball

In possession, Chelsea found spaces centrally to open Everton’s midfield, before finding Pedro and Willian behind or on Everton’s midfield line. Everton’s wing-backs ensured the wide areas were covered, while their wide central defenders were alert and quick to deal with long passes behind.

A typical Chelsea possession began by opening up the pitch through the wing-backs moving high and onto the last line. From here Kante could move wide to the wing (drawing Rooney towards him) to open the space on the inside for Rudiger to carry the ball forward, or for Fabregas to operate in.

From these situations, Everton’s central midfielders were unable to close the ball down to apply pressure, while their square positioning now left passing lanes. Rudiger and Fabregas could play forward passes to Pedro moving away from Everton’s backline, where he could receive the ball to the side, between or behind Everton’s central midfielders. Keane would typically not be able to follow him as he moved away, allowing him to turn into space upon receiving the ball and combine quickly with Morata and Willian.

On the right the pattern of play was similar, but using Azpilicueta to take the ball forward into midfield on the outside (pulling Sigurdsson out) to open space up centrally for Fabregas when Everton’s central midfielders were deeper. If they attempted to push up and pressure Fabregas in these situations it only opened space behind them for Fabregas to find Willian with a first-time pass around them.

Again, Jagielka would have problems with pressuring Willian as Keane had with Pedro on the left. This was especially notable early on in the game, where Willian had the ball deep before quickly turning and accelerating past the Everton defender.

Although Everton’s pressuring forward from the backline was problematic, their covering movements to prevent Chelsea’s long play behind the defence was excellent. They would read the pass early to drop deep in order to be in a position to win the ball in the air before it could reach Pedro running behind.

Another aspect to note is that Chelsea changed their usual kick-off routine to start the second half. Morata, Alonso, Pedro and Moses ran up to Everton’s backline; Fabregas played the ball to Willian (after receiving the ball from the kickoff), where, facing play and in space, Willian played the ball up to Pedro and Morata in the middle—Fabregas and Kante behind them to support the second ball. Variations from Willian could be possible: Moses making a run behind the defence on the outside; a long switch to Alonso and header back into the middle; or a pass behind the defence for Pedro.

Everton with the ball

Similar to some of the problems Chelsea had with forward passes this season (attempting to move up as a team with the ball), Everton often struggled for an outlet on their frontline.

Unlike Everton’s front three, Willian and Pedro were not drawn wide to leave open spaces centrally. Everton's wing-backs would hold slightly deeper midfield positions (whereas Chelsea’s wing-backs would be quick to push forward and close down), and the central midfielders would remain central.

Without being able to move Chelsea’s first line of pressure with the ball, Everton's defenders were often left in positions where Chelsea’s could move up to pressure them and force them backwards.

Willian and Pedro would begin by holding a position around Everton’s central midfielders, before Everton would play wide to one of the wide central defenders. Morata covered the pass back inside to Williams; Chelsea’s central midfielders moved up to cover Everton’s central midfielders (and attempt to block the pass behind them); Willian or Pedro moved up to the wide central defender and the wingback on the side of the ball would be tight to Everton’s wing-back.

From behind there was aggressive positioning and pressure from Azpilicueta and Rudiger on Rooney and Sigurdsson if Everton were able to get the ball through to them, but often the pressure on the first touch and grouping around the receiver (Chelsea’s central midfielders dropping towards them to condense the space and tighten or block passing lines) would result in them either passing back or losing the ball.

Additionally, Everton lacked the depth in organised play, which Chelsea possess, to offer some variation to their play and another option for when play to feet was having problems. Sandro, for the most part, seemed more effective at getting behind Chelsea’s defence in broken play—such as his shot from Rooney’s pass in the second half.

The introduction of Calvert-Lewin gave them a much better forward outlet for early counters in the second half, where he could cause problems with his mobility, aggression and wide runs. Early long play from Pickford (with the ball in his hands) allowed Calvert-Lewin to find spaces wide of Chelsea’s back three, allowing him to either hold the ball or win throw-ins and free kicks.

Conclusion

Everton’s trip to Croatia on Thursday gave them little time to complete their homework on time to be completely prepared for the Chelsea game.

Chelsea’s possession to open Everton in the first half gave them control of the game. Through this they were able to cause Everton problems, while also creating chances from combinations and individual dribbling with the ball. Chelsea had chances to go on and increase the lead, but remained comfortable after their second goal.