A Blue Up North reviews Chelsea’s trip to face Everton away.
This weekend Chelsea traveled up to the north west to take on Everton at Goodison Park. The Blues went into this match knowing victory would draw them level with Arsenal in 4th place in the Premier League.
Chelsea had won their previous away league match, away to Fulham, but had already lost 3 times away in the league in 2019. All in those defeats, away to Arsenal, Bournemouth and Manchester City, The Blues also failed to score a goal as well as not win a point.
However, Chelsea have turned a corner in recent weeks and have been improving their performances and went into this match unbeaten in their last 7 matches. Not only are they aiming to finish in the top 4, but they have coasted in to the quarter finals of the Europa League.
Maurizio Sarri was able to chose from an almost complete squad and reverted to his favoured line up. Despite his hat trick heroics in Ukraine on Thursday, Olivier Giroud made way for Gonzalo Higuain, while Eden Hazard and Pedro flanked the Argentine.
Former Evertonian Ross Barkley was chosen to play alongside Jorginho and N’Golo Kante in midfield, while Marcos Alonso, David Luiz, Antonio Rudiger and Cesar Azpilicueta lined up in front of Kepa Arrizabalaga.
The Blues started the match well and dominated for almost the entirety of the first half. Eden Hazard hit the post and Pedro wasted a glorious chance from close range. The home side struggled to create a chance on goal but,once again, Chelsea’s lack of finishing would cost them dearly.
This is an Everton squad which has been topped up with some expensive signings. In their effort to break in to the top 6, The Toffees have spent in all positions and are managed by Marco Silva as they attempt to improve the quality of their team.
And so it was, having been given little opportunity to attack in the first 45 minutes, Everton then punished Chelsea’s prolifigation within 4 minutes of the restart. And once again it was a simple corner where The Blues’s zonal marking left room for the opposition to simply head in to score.
Then the recent traits continued as The Blues started to retreat back in to their shell after conceding a goal. As the match played on, it looked less likely that they would muster an equaliser. Sarri made the substitutions that most of the fans would have been clambering for, but they made little difference.
And so from dominating the first half, The Blues turned full circle by the end of the match and were deservedly beaten by a side who were able to turn the opportunities in to goals.
The defeat was a dent to Chelsea’s hopes of a top 4 finish. Mathematically it is no longer in their hands. And with away trips to Liverpool and Manchester United yet to come, they will need to make improvements on this showing.
But surely the issues go deeper than that. This match was just a repeat of what we have all witnessed far too often. Most of Chelsea’s early play was strong and commanding, but did not create the amount to chances their dominance deserved. A lack of runners in the penalty box and some non prolific finishing then gave way to our defence being exposed in front of our own goal.
As soon as this side concedes a goal, especially the first in a league match, their confidence and heads descend. They rarely look likely to get back in any match they go behind in and so heap so much pressure on themselves to score first. These are all traits shown by Chelsea on a regular basis over the last 4 months or so.
This result was a definite knock to their top 4 chances, but with 8 matches left, there is still a long way to go. With Cardiff and Brighton to play next, The Blues could still break through after the international break.
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue