It’s quite possible that Chelsea was the best team in England besides Premier League-leading Liverpool through most of October and November. A week into December, however, it seems the Blues’ red-hot run of form has cooled alongside the winter weather.
Everton beat Chelsea 3-1 on Saturday, Frank Lampard’s dynamic young team dropping its second game its last three Premier League outings. For the Toffees, the victory provided a welcome reprieve aft the end of a tumultuous week that included Wednesday’s humiliating 5-2 defeat against blood rival Liverpool and manager Marco Silva’s subsequent dismissal.
Here are three quick thoughts on the match:
Chelsea’s defensive woes continue
At their best this season, Lampard’s side has been a joy to watch, an all-action, hard-running and slick-passing attacking machine, the most fun and, yes, likable Chelsea side in recent memory. What they lacked in experience they made up for with enthusiasm, talent and genuine quality.
The issues have been at the other end of the field. Heading into the early contest at Goodison Park, the Blues had conceded more goals than any other team in the top seven. Those defensive issues were front and center right from the start again on Saturday, with Richarlison putting the hosts ahead before the five-minute mark:
The Toffees’ high-pressure was able to consistently disrupt Chelsea’s possession-based game, and the Blues had few answers.
Early in the second half, Everton took advantage of Chelsea’s shaky back line again — off a throw-in no less — to double their advantage via the first of Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s two goals:
A magnificent strike by Mateo Kovacic brought the visitors back into the match three minutes later, but Chelsea still had a devil of a time producing the final pass when the ventured forward. Despite trailing for 85 minutes, they managed to put just four shots on target.
The outcome seemed inevitable even before Calvert-Lewin’s second:
It’s been clear for months that the Blues will have to outgun their foes to win games this season, although the reduction of their transfer ban means that Lampard can shop for defensive reinforcements in January. Still, it’s going to be hard to pick up points if the attack can’t find the chemistry that had them tearing through the Prem most of the last couple months.
A crucial win for Everton and interim boss Duncan Ferguson
To say it’s been a bad week for the blue half of Merseyside would be an understatement. This was a godsend for the Toffees after their miserable start to 2019-20.
The midweek loss at Anfield meant Everton came into Saturday’s tilt in the relegation zone; the three points against Chelsea vaulted them all the way to 14th place, at least temporarily.
As important as the result was from a points perspective, the performance was almost as crucial. The Toffees displayed a desperation that had been missing far too often this season. But they seemed to immediately take on the personality of interim manager Duncan Ferguson, their combative former striker, whose switch to a more direct playing style instantly paid off.
It wasn’t the most sophisticated approach, it’s true. But if the Toffees are to slowly climb the table and away from danger during the second half of the campaign, the sheer will they showed against Chelsea must become routine.
A big few weeks ahead for the Blues
The lull couldn’t come at a worse time for Chelsea, which faces a midweek Champions League clash with a knockout stage berth on the line, although the visit from French side Lille appears manageable.
Difficult trips to London rivals Tottenham and Arsenal loom before the month is out. How the Blues perform on those games will go a long way toward determining if Lampard (and owner Roman Abramovich) will mostly keep the faith in this young group of players, or dive into the transfer market next month in search of proven veterans to help shoulder the load in the new year.
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