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Everton 1-0 Chelsea, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

You’re welcome, Frank?

Everton v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images

Chelsea have had a terrible recent record at Goodison Park, and combined with Everton’s relegation battle and our own fatigue and ruinous form in front of net, this was never going to be a comfortable match.

Frank Lampard duped the world and set his team out in an unusual starting formation, veering away from his customary 4-3-3 and opting for three central defenders and a back five. Everton’s clear intent was sit deep in a low block and hit on the counter, play physically and press jointly and exhaustively, and, as Lampard said after the game, keep cover on Mason Mount and prevent him from finding space and influencing the game.

Top: Assumed starting XI’s, Bottom: Actual starting XI’s

Fabian Delph and Abdoulaye Doucouré were tasked with man-marking Mount or the spaces he was attempting to occupy between their midfield and defense, and did so admirably. That Mount was still our most potent of the front three is further testament to his ability to play in that floating No.10 role effectively.

Taking Mount out of the equation was a defensive priority for them

Everton were leaving accessible areas out wide but the centre of the park was absolutely jam-packed. They were playing with as much of a vertical press as they could but were far less engaged horizontally and were leaving large swaths of space in wide areas.

However, upon being passed through and threatened on the occasions we were able, they collapsed deep into a 5-4-1 block that hamstrung our attack.

Toffees’ attack was so narrow and deep in positioning looks like a sideways T, with a heat map as spotted as a leopard

While it’s easy to point fingers at César Azpilicueta for the loss thanks to his individual error that gifted Everton the only goal of the game, it’s equally easy to point them at our two strikers, who continue to be preferred despite falling flat in their last performances.

Although the continuity is appreciated in the search for attacking cohesion, the timing of and personnel used in substitutions has not been ideal, while the persistence with those established has been unconvincing. The late replacement of our forwards in the West Ham game and their impact led to their inclusion a bit earlier against Manchester United, where they were not so effective.

It might also be time for a formation adjustment.

Although Tuchel has been flexible earlier this season, trying various defensive and attacking setups to alleviate our injury problems or to try to get the best out of certain players, he’s reverted to rigidity — and not just in formation, but his substitution patterns as well. Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech coming on and playing alternating roles in a wingback position were inevitable, and Romelu Lukaku couldn’t even get on the pitch thanks to Tuchel having to use a substitution for an injury at half-time as well (Mateo Kovačić for Jorginho).

Teams have figured out that a low block and counter can be most effective against a mistake-prone Chelsea (Everton had 23 clearances, for example), frustrating our attack into eventual submission, taking advantage of individual errors committed, as well as an often defensively vulnerable midfield.

What may be a trending pattern are the shots conceded from the right side of our defense. In our last two losses, twelve of the last fifteen conceded have come that area. Azpilicueta was the right-sided centre back in both of them, and quite probably needs a rest. Trevoh Chalobah’s long overdue for more minutes anyway.

After the first half, we might have hoped for better. Tuchel has a decent track record for impact substitutions and certainly we had a few available on the bench. However, in five of our last seven games in all competitions, we have conceded within the first 15 minutes of the second half — seven goals in total in fact.

PL goals scored and times (the 7th was against Real Madrid in our first leg)

Just as Tuchel said, individual errors aren’t to be emphasized and Everton’s goalkeeper played an outstanding match, even if our finishing couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn — a familiar failing that makes it even more likely to draw out excellent performances from opposition goalkeepers.

One final tactical note: there is never, and I do mean never, a reason to have two players line up to take a corner. The flight of the ball, inswinging or outswinging, is not going to dramatically change the opposition’s defensive setup, nor their goalkeeper’s positioning. The effectiveness and clever routines of our set pieces has been null and void lately, but pulling an additional player out wide (especially after our recent conceded goals from a counter following a corner) while not even feigning a short take is not the solution.

At least our former two managers to have beaten us are likeable personalities.

All parties need to step up their game. The season is not over, the top four is not yet entirely secured, there is hope for a domestic trophy in just over a week’s time. The club’s future always at stake, especially given the ridiculous amount of scrutiny currently on the club. The time to start playing better is now, if not yesterday.


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