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Everton 2-0 Chelsea, Premier League: Tactical Analysis

Chelsea are possessed...

Everton FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League
Everton keep winning, Chelsea don’t
Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

Here are the numbers: 72% possession, 16 shots. But only 4 were on target achieving an xG of 0.95, an xGOT of 0.18, and we had zero “big” chances. In fact, zero of our shots from inside the Everton box forced a save from Jordan Pickford. Not a single Everton player aside from Pickford progressed the ball more than 200 yards up the pitch (187 from Jack Harrison was the most aside from Pickford’s 612) throughout the match, while of our starters only Reece James failed to progress the ball more than 200 yards, with Enzo’s shockingly low 240 being the least. And yet, for all the possession and vertical play that we may have had, none of that matters. When route 1 football can completely dismantle our defense, the opposition barely needs to have possession to beat us. The stats are essentially a lie, because while we possessed the ball, we, too, are possessed by goal-scoring demons. Until we exorcise them, we are doomed to suffer the same fate time and time again.

Starting XIs

Everton’s formation collapsed defensively, getting almost everyone behind the ball and hoping to spring on the counter. Axel Disasi and Benoît Badiashile were likely chosen to combat the physical presence of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and they essentially handled him well. That about does it for the praise in this article, because other than glimpses from Conor Gallagher or Mikhailo Mudryk, I do not think anyone played particularly well. I was pining for Armando Broja to get a start, but he finished with a meagre 16 touches, most of which were outside of their box and down our right flank (which was our preferred side to attack, at 39%) and only 1 shot, which was one of our many that was not on target yet taken from inside their box. To be fair, we only had 30 touches total in their penalty area, far from our average, so he wasn’t the only one failing to get on the ball in threatening areas.

In fact, that has been a direct reason for our goal deficiency this season - we are not going to score without getting people on the ball inside the box. Only two of our goals this season have been scored from outside the box, so with our 21 non-penalty goals this season from 202 shots, our goals per shot boils down to 0.1, a very low figure and a clear reason why we need to get into prime scoring positions in order to actually get the ball in the net. If you look at a map of where each of our goals were scored this season (again, non-penalty), we are essentially only scoring goals between the top of the 6 yard box and the penalty spot, with very few outliers. We rank 6th in the league for number of touches in the opposition area, but that drops to 12th when it comes to shots on target, meaning we are entirely too wasteful with whatever chances we are getting.

xG vs G disparity
Opta Analyst

Chelsea have had a strange relationship with xG for the past two seasons, either underperforming or overperforming depending on the manager. The games prior to these miserable performances against Tottenham, Manchester City, and Brighton had caused that goals for line to spike dramatically, but the malaise that has followed has caused those lines to shift back closer to an equity. That regression has coincided with a regression in quality of play on the pitch, and unfortunately the injuries have left us short on viable replacements for our starters, which has certainly contributed to the minimal goal involvements that our substitutes have had this season.

Our substitutes are not Premier League proven, and at an average age of 21 years and 237 days, we are a full 2 years and 168 days younger than any other side. In fact, from 60 total substitutions this season, Nicolas Jackson’s goal in the 4-1 thrashing of Burnley is our only substitute goal contribution. We also have zero assists (disregarding the penalty Armando Broja earned against Manchester City) from our subs. Perhaps this is why Pochettino suggested that we would be dipping into the transfer market in January, but with such an already expensively assembled squad, we should rightly expect better from those that are currently here.

If we were seeking simply just confirmation that progress is taking place, this was a significant setback. We finished 12th last season and that is the position we find ourselves languishing in currently, yet this could potentially get worse. I posted last week how, theoretically, things were supposed to get easier over the coming weeks, this game included. While a trip to Goodison has rarely turned out good for us, aside from the trip to Molineux on Christmas Eve, our next games are not only winnable, they could decide whether we are battling for the top half of the table or relegation come the end of the season. Our recent form suggests that very few games can be classified as winnable, and the busy festive fixtures can often define a club’s future. Season defining moments are upon us, will we buck up and deliver? Let’s hope so.


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