Chelsea found it difficult to break down Everton’s defensive block in midfield during the opening stages of the match. Everton were able to hold their lines, prevent most of Chelsea’s forward passes and slow down Chelsea’s possession.
Everton set up their 4-4-2 defensive block in midfield, where they didn’t pressure Chelsea’s central defenders on the ball. The front two would instead move side to side to cover Chelsea’s midfield three dropping back to receive the ball and prevent them from being able to play forward passes.
On the wings, Everton would shift over quickly and press (wingers moving up) when Chelsea moved the ball out to the fullbacks in deep positions. Behind them, the backline and central midfielders were always quick to get tight to Chelsea’s options ahead of the ball to prevent easy progress forward and force them to play the ball back.
This gave Chelsea a lot of problems with the ball, and resulted in David Luiz and Rudiger being on the ball a lot without forward progress. Long ground passes to the frontline were sometimes forced forward and Everton won the ball, and the same would happen with long diagonal passes to the wingers. If Chelsea were to play through the central midfielders, they would need to hold the ball under pressure and find combinations through tight spaces and to teammates marked tightly.
Where Chelsea began to have success with the ball was long passes behind the Everton backline, which would either create an opportunity in the box to win the ball or for the team to push up and pressure the second ball. Upon winning it high they could break Everton’s lines and start another attack with a higher starting position. Another avenue forward for Chelsea was finding the full backs advancing behind Everton’s wingers ,creating opportunities to cross. Direct passes from the central defenders could also move Chelsea up and create 1v1 situations with Everton’s full backs — although Digne put in a solid defensive performance in these situations against Willian (less so against passes behind him).
Upon winning the ball, Everton attempted to counter and create chances, but most of the time Chelsea’s backline would recover the ball quickly. However, if Everton were able to win free kicks and corners, they would always cause Chelsea problems — they would create their best opportunities of the half exactly in that manner.
Later in the half, and with Everton having displayed a lot of discipline to hold their midfield positions, Chelsea began to play through the pressure, finding players more consistently, while full backs started advancing with good timing more often as well.
With Chelsea now taking the risk to play through the midfielders under pressure they found opportunities to play in Hazard between lines, creating chances and winning free kicks, while also opening spaces on the wings by playing inside first. In both cases when Hazard won a free kick between the lines, Alonso had a shot on goal as a result.
By advancing this way, Chelsea pushed Everton back consistently, forcing them to drop their block deeper into their own half — earlier, Everton’s front two were on the halfway line, and now they were behind the centre circle in their own half. With more space in midfield Chelsea could attack the final third more easily and play with more speed on the ball, but the match remained scoreless.
The second half started with two good chances for both teams: Pickford forced into a save to prevent Chelsea scoring from their usual kick off routine, and Walcott getting behind Alonso during a counter, only for his touch to let him down.
The game was much more open as Everton committed players forward (both in possession and on counters), which would open spaces for Hazard between lines, and allow Chelsea to attack much more in the final third than in the first half.
Chelsea created chance after chance whenever they had the ball up until Everton switched to a 5-4-1 with Jagielka replacing Sigurdsson. This provided them with the extra man at the back, preventing Chelsea from getting behind the backline as consistently as they had.
Chelsea’s route into the box for the final stages of the game was through the wings, with crosses into the box an option against Everton’s deep defensive block. Perhaps in this moment Giroud instead of Barkley (and playing with two strikers) would have been a better option, but that may have also opened up Chelsea for counters and reduced the amount of control through possession.
Everton’s defensive block was solid during the first part of the match, and Chelsea weren’t able to advance into the final third or find their attacking players to create chances. Sustaining this defensive discipline in midfield was too much, however, and Chelsea began to play through their midfielders and push Everton back towards the end of the first half. The second half was much more open; Everton had a number of opportunities to score, and Chelsea created a lot of chances up until Everton switched to a back five, which allowed them to regain defensive stability and see the game out.