The reverse fixture at the Bridge witnessed a pretty dire game from a toffee perspective as a combination of Mata’s brilliance and some shite defending cost us dear. Chelsea’s aggressive high line and pressing penned us deep into our own half for the most part with our slow build up play from the back constantly exposed. Our right side was particularly dodgy with all 3 goals sourced from this flank as Coleman and Hibbert had an evening to forget.
Chelsea’s offensive make up is certainly their key strength. Mata is the main positive to come out of the AVB revolution and he showed at the Bridge earlier this season the damage he could do as he ripped us apart. Unsurprisingly, the former Valencia man is statistically the most creative player in the league as shown in the table (left).
Whilst Torres can’t buy a goal at the moment his moody mate Sturridge – one of the most direct players in the league- certainly can. The forward has slotted in his last 2 against us for Bolton and Chelsea and he is their top scorer with 9. Chelsea average 18.1 shots per game on their travels which is the highest in the division.
Defensive frailties have undermined their attempts to put more pressure on the top 3. Initially the problem appeared Terry’s inability to adapt to a higher defensive line that had been used in previous regimes. The line looks to have been tweaked given that Chelsea caught opponents offside on average 1.5 times in their last 6 games – less than half the figure of their first 6 games (3.3) which is indicative of a deeper defensive line. Neither Terry or Cole are any longer in their prime and when you factor in that Bosingwa/Luiz are both better on the ball then defending of it you have problems.
I’d fancy us to get a goal from a cross. Baines looked more threatening last week than at any stage of the season with Pienaar affording him more space to scheme. Donovan has also assisted 5 in 8 games and has great delivery from wide areas. Whoever starts in the 2 forward positions for us (presumably Cahill + Straq/Victor/Jelavich) there is a significant aerial threat from crosses to harm Chelsea. Luiz aerially has only won 58% of his battles so is susceptible if we can get the right quality into the box.
In defence, Luiz and either Ivanovic or Cahill will partner each other at the back. Chelsea’s shape will be 4-2-3-1 ish – the average position chart (left) shows their positioning last week with the red circles defensive mids and the yellow attacking mids. Perennial slotter against us Frank Lampard would appear ‘set’ to return – which is a shame – however our visitors have other problems with Ramires, Drogba and Terry all out. Mata should play more centrally with Malouda wide left and Sturridge the reluctant right sided forward. The much maligned Torres will start through the middle. On the subject of the former Kop darling turned figure of hate, he is clearly struggling for confidence. After witnessing him manically run 20 yards to close down a defender last week I’d argue that he seems to have regressed to the mindset an English striker – Brian Deane for example – and is a shadow of the player who used to conserve his energy for short bursts onto opposing keepers.
AVB has chopped and changed things tactically throughout the campaign. The high defensive line has been modified but is still relatively high (like ourselves at home) which keeps opponents at arms length and reduces the shots conceded as shown in the chart (left). Chelsea will look to press and be aggressive in their work when we are on the ball so we will need to be quicker and more fluid in possession than we were at the JJB last week. Whilst the high line/ pressing combination is effective in gaining territorial dominance it can leave you exposed in behind and with Donovan, Drenthe and Anichebe all potentially figuring at some stage we have decent options for fast break situations. When playing counter attacking situations themselves, Chelsea have players like Luiz who can ping a long diagonal and turn defence into attack in an instant as Newcastle discovered to their cost when Sturridge had a field day. His own battle against Baines at both ends of the pitch could be pivotal.
Predicted Everton Line up: 4-4-1-1 Howard, Neville, Baines, Distin, Heitinga, Gibson, Fellaini, Donovan, Pienaar, Cahill, Anichebe
Prediction: Everton 1 Chelsea 1
Bet: Chelsea H/T Draw F/T