Saturday marked the fifth game since Italian manager Antonio Conte resorted to a new formation at Chelsea after a poor run of form seen against title contenders Liverpool and Arsenal got in the way of an early bid to make an impact on this ever competitive season.
Having being been part of a three at the back set up for the majority of his managerial career Conte has recently seen comfortable wins against champions Leicester City and Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United to cement a solid base in Chelsea’s sudden surge for the top spot in this already forming title race. Last weekend, Ronald Koeman’s men made the journey to west London without Senegalese midfielder, Idrissa Gueye, who was seeing suspension after picking up five yellow cards for the Toffees but who has also been in formidable form for the team from Merseyside.
The 27-year-old who was part of the burdened Aston Villa squad last season has a tally of 44 tackles to his name this season behind Englishmen Danny Drinkwater and Jordan Henderson, who have played one more than Gueye for their respective clubs. In an interview after the damming defeat on Saturday night, Koeman admitted his team missed Gueye and that Everton “need to sign more players like him”. This certainly showed in the performances throughout the 90.
Before the ball had been kicked the decision to emulate Conte’s 3-4-3 had been seen appropriate in the Everton camp as scoring an early goal was something Chelsea have thrived on already this season to numerous sides.
The game flowed towards Chelsea’s way in the lead-up to the first goal and the supposed back three for Everton had soon become a set five at the back what soon stagnated options for former Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku going forward. The low experience and potential lack of preparation to play the formation soon began to tell as we got deeper into the first half. Wing backs started to get complacent and gaps were appearing too much of Eden Hazard’s delight. The Belgian predictably skipped past Ashley Williams after a poor piece of miscommunication with Seamus Coleman, as a wonderfully bent effort passed a seemingly helpless Maarten Stekelenburg as the Blues delighted with a one nil lead over the visitors.
Looking back at the highlights, questions have been asked if fellow attacker Pedro had influenced the play in an offside position, this alone shows how unnecessarily high the Everton line was allowing space in behind the centre-halves consistently throughout play. It almost felt like the away side needed a minute to recuperate and adapt to the situation they were in but same mistakes happened again and before the home fans had stopped celebrating, a lovely left-footed finish on the 20-minute mark by Marcos Alonso had already sealed the game as this Chelsea side looked in scintillating form.
60-40 were the possession stats by 90 minutes and with this, the Blues were happy to use long balls to test the Everton backline. An exquisitely weighted through ball from goal scorer Alonso to Victor Moses, just past the half hour mark, optimised the freedom and space the home side play within this new dimension of football as the Nigerian hit the woodwork to spare Koeman’s side another goal in quick succession which has been a theme of Everton’s play especially under Roberto Martinez last season.
Coming up to the halfway point Bryan Oviedo’s slow start to the game had paid the dividend as Kevin Mirallas came on to defend a corner after captain Phil Jagielka had cleared his lines following a flurry of Blue shirts looked to close him down. The flick on by Pedro was a good one as the poor organisation from Lukaku to leave his man was “costly” as man of the moment Diego Costa buried his chance with a sublime strike into the bottom corner leaving Stekelenburg bewildered and motionless.
The second half came about and after a magnificent solo effort by Hazard to grab his second of the game and Pedro to seal a crushing victory, Conte made it clear that a fifth clean sheet in a row was now the priority for the west London side. N’Golo Kante picked up a further two successful interceptions in the second half to help see Chelsea outright winners and to make a statement to the rest of the Premier League to watch out for this year’s dark horses in the competition.
The impressive Hazard, who has recently got four goals in a row for his club, is in fine form and this game was not an exception. Being deployed in a more attacking role and being given the freedom to drift and roam around the 18-yard box makes the Belgian an invaluable asset to this Chelsea side. Conte’s men after the international break are set to face – Middlesbrough (A), Tottenham Hotspur (H) and Manchester City (A), and having got the momentum from this subsequent victory, wins in the next three will most certainly put the champions of 14/15 back into contention.
This article is written by Reuben Rosso, you can follow him on Twitter at @ReubenRosso1. What are your thoughts? Let us know by dropping a comment via our comments box below. Make sure you follow us on Twitter, Google+, Instagram and like us on Facebook.