The trip up to Goodison Park was the last away game of 2017 for Antonio Conte’s side. With 2 more home games after the to close out the calendar year, Chelsea were hoping to leave the road on a high note but Sam Allardyce had other plans (as usual). Fresh off the back of their dramatic win against Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup it was hoped they’d continue to let the high energy flow but the game against the Toffees was drawn out a lot more than it had to. More dropped points for Chelsea essentially means they’re fighting to secure 3rd rather than rise to 2nd.
Hazard draws blank up top
Eden Hazard started his second consecutive league game as a false 9 for Chelsea. This was due to Alvaro Morata being suspended & Michy Batshuayi observing from the bench. The Belgian maestro had a decent game but failed to score partly due to Morgan Schneiderlin sitting between the lines; the exact space Hazard loves to operate in. With Schneiderlin picking up Hazard it allowed his centre-backs to clear any crosses much easier & also double up on their corresponding winger with their fullbacks. The away side resorted to crosses to break down the hosts but Chelsea lacked someone who could physically challenge Everton’s man oriented deep block, making this method largely ineffective. Idrissa Gueye & Tom Davies aided Schneiderlin by screening passes into the Belgian, reducing the amount of impact Hazard could have off the ball.
Deep block blocks Chelsea
Everton’s 4-5-1 gave them a 5 vertical lane occupation, them sitting deep was a sign that Allardyce’s deep block was here to stay. Chelsea’s best line breaker in Cesc Fabregas was on the bench; Alvaro Morata’s aerial presence also aids deep block destruction but he missed out due to suspension. This left Chelsea with no target man, no presence passer but just a large reliance on Hazard to score the opener. By the time Fabregas did come on he had little time to control the tempo of the game as the hosts’ back 4 had already found their groove. It could be argued that Conte is too cautious at times as Danny Drinkwater is also a capable line breaker, even more so than Kante & Bakayoko but the Italian refused to deploy his summer signing.
Lack of creativity from wide?
With Eden Hazard being the striker on the day this left Pedro & Willian as the starting wingers. Charly Musonda wasn’t named on the bench as Callum Hudson-Odoi was involved with the matchday squad once more. Pedro & Willian don’t have the same output as Hazard which forced Chelsea to play into congested central areas to form mediocre attacks. It is interesting to see if Conte addresses this; Hudson-Odoi may soon see minutes like fellow youngster Ethan Ampadu, Musonda might finally be given a proper run in the senior team or Conte may even go out to buy a winger altogether. This needs to be solved, and fast.
With Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal & even Burnley all eyeing a European berth it is integral that the Blues stop dropping points against teams that their rivals have been flattening. On the flip side the terrific form of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City has proved to be a false indicator of the performances of others; to put things into perspective Chelsea had 49 points this time last year but in comparison they’d be 6 points behind the current leaders. This isn’t to excuse the poor results of Conte’s team but it does provide some context for their season so far.