Chelsea played a tough Everton squad on Monday and came away with a fairly comfortable 2-0 win. The scoreline doesn’t tell the entire story though, as if not for Jordan Pickford’s excellence, it would’ve been a lot worse for the visitors. Nevertheless, the win—yet another clean sheet—moved the Blues four points ahead of the Toffees. It was a big six-pointer that swung in Chelsea’s favor in the battle for fourth place in the table.
There’s a lot to comment upon in this one, so here are some quick takeaways from this critical win:
The line-up raised some eyebrows
Thomas Tuchel—who’s gone 11 unbeaten since coming to west London—was in a squad rotational mood, as he made several changes from his line-up against Liverpool.
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First, he inserted Kai Havertz into the team at the No. 9 spot. That was a bit of a surprise, but not a shock. Havertz acquitted himself extremely well, though it may not be his best position, that has yet to be seen. He gained the advantage initially for the Blues on an Everton own-goal. Jorginho replaced N’Golo Kante in the starting XI and played decently, except in missing the net on two decent chances. Kante is clearly the best option anytime in that position still.
Timo Werner moved to the right wing while Callum Hudson-Odoi played on the left. At left wingback, it was Marcos Alonso who came back into the team for Ben Chilwell. Chilwell may have been just rested and he clearly remains the better choice. Kurt Zouma came back into the squad in central defense and acquitted himself well.
Still no offensive breakthrough
Tuchel’s 3-4-3 has certainly excelled on defense, but it is lacking when it comes to producing goals. The manager has yet to find the combination to unlock the tremendous attacking talent available in the team. Stellar players like Olivier Giroud and Christian Pulisic, as well as the indomitable Mason Mount didn’t start and their offensive flair was missed.
Werner couldn’t finish two chances in the second half, one particularly a great chance after a tremendous pass over the top. That chance had goal written all over it, but again, the German steam engine could not finish. He was again denied by Jordan Pickford in the 85′, once again continuing the theme of Werner needing things to fall his way. Hudson-Odoi performed well on the wing before he came off in favor of Mount.
The goals aren’t coming in droves, but the wins are, so who knows how to evaluate this dynamic. It is what it is and it’s good enough at this point later in the season to just keep piling up points and earn Champions League qualification— maybe a cup win, as well? Mateo Kovacic did thread a brilliant pass to Kai Havertz, who earned a penalty that was taken and put away by Jorginho. I’ll still take exception to Tuchel not getting Werner into the penalty act. He needs any boost he can get at this point, and this muted criticism will continue as long as these less-than-optimum decisions on penalties continue.
Defense on the spot to keep Everton’s stars in check
The central defense—Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen and Zouma—had a solid contest. They kept the dynamic young duo of Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin mostly in check, which is no easy feat. The wingbacks, especially Reece James, also did their jobs in support of the three central defenders. All in all, a clean sheet against this determined and talented Toffees squad is a very solid achievement. Tuchel has yet to get the goal spigot turned on, but one can’t fault his ability to have tightened the defense dramatically enough to simply deliver clean sheet after clean sheet.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to argue for a different formation with all this success eventuating. Now the wins are coming against the best sides in the Premier League—like Liverpool and Everton—it can’t be denied, the 3-4-3 is just working.
Christensen excelling in the middle of the central defense
Most impressive was the continued excellent play of Chelsea’s No. 4, Christensen. He seems to be settling in perfectly in the middle of the three central defenders. One impressive impact he has made is his ability and willingness to move the ball forward in transition. The only complaint here is that he’s not always driving it quickly enough in the middle of the pitch. He has the pace and the inclination, he’s doing exactly what he should, but he can certainly drive it even harder and put more pressure on the defense if he’s encouraged by Tuchel to do so. It adds a dimension in transition that the two No. 6s did not provide to a great extent. Kudos to Zouma are also in order for blasting forward on occasion.
Havertz’ outstanding all-around effort
Havertz’s work rate and two near goals were a terrific sign of the emergence of the German maestro into full fitness and form. Havertz had a Man of the Match performance and his best since his hat-trick game against Barnsley last September. Gaining the penalty and just having a totally positive impact on the game were great signs. Observers and fans cannot discount the possible impact of the Coronavirus on his health earlier. To minimize that possible impact is irresponsible. Yet now, thankfully, he is clearly exhibiting the pace and stamina to begin to express the bountiful talent that this young player possesses. There is much, much more to come for sure.
What takeaways did you have from this great win over Everton? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!