Everton unexpectedly made 5 changes from last weeks inept surrender to West Brom, with Rodwell and Fellaini coming into midfield, Saha replacing Yakubu and Coleman coming in on the right in a man marking brief to eliminate Ashley Cole down Chelsea’s left. Chelsea retained their 4-3-3 system with a rigid back four playing deep to accommodate the returning Terry . Everton lined up with a flexible 4-5-1, more 4-2-3-1 without the ball with Fellaini and Rodwell protecting the defence. Fellaini played on the left side of the centre, the spot recently occupied by Arteta, and his defensive solidity gave Everton a much better balance in midfield. Pienaar, Cahill and Coleman occupied the more advanced positions. Diagram A below shows the average positions both teams occupied with Everton in blue and Chelsea in red.
The first 30 minutes of the game was complete deadlock. Moyes deployment of Coleman as a man marker for Cole shutdown the Chelsea left (diagram 2). Chelsea where showing more going forward but Everton where pressing well and squeezing the space centrally. Indeed, a focus of the game would be on two English left backs with Ashley Cole and Leighton Baines pivotal to proceedings. Chelsea’s lack of width in midfield gave Baines the freedom of the left flank to smash 5 potent crosses from dangerous areas. In contrast, Cole was extremely well marshalled by Coleman, who forced him into making zero successful crosses (Chalkboard A). Stephen Warnock is of course somehow ahead of Baines in the England pecking order, but if anyone can give a plausible reason as to why this is the case I would be interested to know.
Chalkboard A – Baines v Cole Chalkboard B -Everton before/after Beckford
Everton’s robust showing was undermined on the 42nd minute when Neville inexplicably passed back to Howard when potential offensive passes where on, gifting Anelka the opportunity to steam into Howard and win Chelsea a penalty. Probert’s decision to give Howard a yellow was the correct decision but to be fair it wouldn’t have been surprising if the knee jerk ref had dismissed Howard. The out of form Drogba duly lashed home from the penalty spot.
Everton Second Half Dominance
The second half began with the Blues in determined mood. Clearly motoring, the Blues where sharper to every ball and pressing high up the pitch in contrast to the first 45 minutes. Pienaar was taking up a more central role with Baines almost playing as a left winger with Rodwell and Fellaini covering behind. Despite this sharper bite, Everton were still struggling to provide traction to their attacking play, but this was to change on the hour mark with Beckford’s introduction . The change was to prove decisive, with the former Leeds man proving a thorn in ‘JT’s’ side, moving between his markers with greater regularity and getting in behind the Chelsea defence in a manner Saha failed to do. Chalkboard B shows this shift in play, with Everton forcing 7 shots in the first hour and then 11 in the last 30 minutes following Beckford’s introduction.
Beckford ‘s misses made headlines last week but you can’t doubt the strikers eagerness and ability to get into goal scoring chances. Indeed, in the last 3 outings the striker has carved out 9 goal scoring chances in 72 minutes, compared with Saha’s 2 in 150 minutes. Beckford is still an unknown quantity at this level, but his potential and recent form mean that he must start the next game against Wigan.
Everton had already hit the post when Baines got free and whipped in a delicious cross that the impressive Rodwell unluckily flicked onto Cech’s post after great work from the dominant Fellaini. Cahill as ever was Everton’s leader today, at the fulcrum of all that was good for the Blues and he angered Chelsea’s gross skipper Terry when going in for a 50-50 with Cech. The Aussie connected with Cech but was well within his rights to go for the ball. The former England skipper and part time love rat had been throwing his weight around all afternoon, notably saving Malouda and Ivanovic from cards. His pressure to get Cahill into trouble with the referee summed up the double standards with English players when it comes to influencing referees.
Baines dominance down the left was so immense that Chelsea withdrew Bosingwa, clearly not as good defending as he is going forward, with the more defence minded Ferreira. The only disappointing factor was that Everton didn’t go on to take the 3 points as Chelsea where there for the taking with 7 minutes added on for stoppages. But in truth this was much improved display from the Blues.
A great response by Everton following last week’s embarrassment to West Brom. Defensively Everton were water tight, restricting their opponents to few goal scoring chances until Neville’s moment of madness. Everton’s drive going forward, led by the determination of the midfield axis of Rodwell and Fellaini ( a refreshing change from the pedestrian offering served up lately by Arteta and Heitinga) enabled the Blues to press high in Chelsea’s half. This enabled Baines to get on the ball in dangerous area and this was where The Blues made their point. A great showing.