Everton 0-1 Chelsea: Four lessons learnt on matchday one

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 06: Jorginho of Chelsea celebrates scoring their side's first goal from a penalty with teammates during the Premier League match between Everton FC and Chelsea FC at Goodison Park on August 06, 2022 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 06: Jorginho of Chelsea celebrates scoring their side's first goal from a penalty with teammates during the Premier League match between Everton FC and Chelsea FC at Goodison Park on August 06, 2022 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images) /

Chelsea took on Everton away from home in the 2022/23 season’s opening weekend with the Blues looking to kickstart their Premier League campaign with a victory. The game turned out to be a closely contested affair featuring scrappy midfield battles that, at times, threatened to devolve the match into an attritional one. Chelsea, however, did come out as the eventual winner courtesy of a first half injury time penalty that Jorginho duly converted.

Here are the four lessons we learnt from the Blues’ narrow 1-0 victory over the Toffees:

1. Telling absences

The first important takeaway from the match came even before a ball was kicked. Analysing Thomas Tuchel’s first team selection of the new season offers an insight into his desired squad make-up. While some of the notable absentees, such as Marcos Alonso, were more or less predictable as both player and club sought to move on, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Timo Werner represented two of the more surprising exclusions. Tuchel remains in possession of a bloated squad in need of an urgent trimming and in this regard, the manager clearly views both players as “excess” to be removed. Considering more players are still expected to come in before the transfer window closes, something has clearly got to give. With Alonso close to a move to Barcelona, Werner keen on a return to RB Leipzig and Hudson-Odoi open to a loan move to Southampton, do not be surprised to see all three players gone come the end of the transfer window.

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2. Poor selection choices

Tuchel’s decision to start with a midfield duo of Jorginho and N’Golo Kante was surprising, to say the least. Frank Lampard chose to mirror Chelsea’s formation so as to match up one-versus-one with the opposition all across the pitch, so it was vital that Tuchel had as many dynamic players on the field as possible. These are the players who can beat their man and drive the ball forward, thereby making them potential difference-makers in a closely contested affair. This is why the decision to neither start nor bring on Mateo Kovacic, even as the Blues were rapidly losing control of the midfield in the second half, can be seen as a negative one.

Tuchel opted for the greater security that Jorginho and Kante could offer, a decision that contributed to his side’s inability to penetrate Everton’s low-block for large parts of the game. While there are games and moments where a Jorginho-Kante double pivot will work, Saturday’s game against the Toffees was not one of them. Hence, despite the win, Tuchel arguably made things more difficult than was necessary with his poor midfield selection.

3. A rusty, disjointed and static attack

It was clear from the kickoff when the likes of Jorginho and Mason Mount were misplacing simple passes that Chelsea is not yet operating at its usual level. The decision-making of individual players was uncharacteristically slow. This was evident early on in the game. Kai Havertz—having regained possession inside the Everton box as a result of Jordan Pickford’s failed attempt at preventing the ball from going out for a corner—took far too long to make the killer pass when clear options had presented themselves at the back post. This was just one of the many instances of the Blues’ attack fizzing out in crucial moments and on another day, Tuchel’s men could very well have been made to pay.

Hudson-Odoi and Werner didn’t even making the bench and Havertz struggling to make any notable impact on the game. Thus, it is concerning that Chelsea’s remaining transfer business remains fixated on bringing in a new central midfielder and defender. It may be a new season, but the Blues’ issues when on the offensive remain. There is still time for fresh faces to be brought in to bolster the front line. Alternatively, Tuchel could simply choose to place his faith in young striker Armando Broja, who impressed in his short cameo against Everton. Either way, something has to be done to improve Chelsea’s offensive play or painful 0-0 and 1-1 draws last season could quickly become the norm once again.

4. Not capitalising on set pieces

Chelsea took an astonishing 16 corners at Goodison Park on Saturday, 13 of which came in the first half. Considering that Everton’s defensive record when it came to set pieces was one of the poorest in the league last season, it was disappointing that none of the 16 corners resulted in a clear-cut chance being created. Rather embarrassingly, one of Chelsea’s first half corners was so poorly executed that the Blues were forced to pass the ball all the way back to Mendy, whose eventual long ball found an Everton player. Particularly culpable with regard to Chelsea’s inability to exploit dangerous set piece opportunities was Reece James. The wingback’s crosses into the box were largely uninspiring and they failed to put the Toffees’ defence under any kind of pressure.

Additionally, despite the presence of both Kalidou Koulibaly and Thiago Silva in the box for most—if not all—of Chelsea’s offensive set pieces, neither player offered the kind of aerial prowess that Antonio Rudiger was able to supply his side with last season. More work simply has to be done on the training ground. For a side that struggles to create in open play, especially against defensive sides like Everton, set piece opportunities could prove to be the difference between a win and a draw, three points and one. Tuchel and his coaching staff will do well to better exploit future set piece opportunities moving forward.

Next. Everton 0-1 Chelsea player ratings: Glory at Goodison Park. dark

What are some of the takeaways you had from the opening match of the season? Let us know your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter!