On Sunday, the Toffees travelled south to London to take on defending Premier League champions, Chelsea, in their third game in less than a week. Chelsea had their way with Everton from the start of the game, scoring a goal in the 27th minute off the foot of Cesc Fabregas—it was a goal that had been coming for quite some time. The Blues then added to their lead in the 40th minute with an Alvaro Morata goal that put them up 2-0 going into the half.
The second half was much of the same as Chelsea dominated and Everton found themselves on the back foot with every passing minute. The introduction of Dominic Calvert-Lewin brought some spark to the team, but not enough to help the Toffees rescue something from this game, as they eventually lost 2-0. The loss continues Everton’s winless streak in games away from home dating all the way back to January. The outing was certainly not an impressive one as the Toffees failed to register a shot on goal the whole game. The team looked a bit tired from their busy schedule over the past couple weeks, but that was far from the reason the team severely underperformed.
Koeman gets it all wrong again
Once again, manager, Ronald Koeman, got the formation all wrong, leading to troubles for the Toffees all game. He trotted out what looked like a 5-2-2-1, going with three center backs. The formation did not allow for any attacking threat and left holes in the middle of the field for Chelsea, who took advantage and broke the Toffees down at every opportunity. The Blues passed the ball with ease and when space closed in the middle, they were easily able to pass the ball off to the wings where there was plenty of room, as well.
It was a very defensive approach, something that we have seen from Koeman when playing on the road since the beginning of his time at Everton, and it was absolutely the wrong decision here. While the attacking power of Chelsea can never be understated, the way to beat the forays of attacks the Blues muster is to press them high up the field and pin the wingbacks into their own half. The formation played in this game left 7 men playing defense for Everton at all times and only 3 to get the ball to and start a counter-attack.
Also, right now, with the players Everton have, playing with one striker is never a good idea. It has been proven in multiple games before this latest affair that the Merseysiders play better with two strikers who can play off each other, or at least with wingers, which gives the team some width and allows them to consistently feed the balls up towards the front-men. In this game, there was no width from the away team, which allowed Chelsea’s fullbacks to run up-and-down the sidelines, drawing the attention of the central midfielders, opening up space in the middle. If Everton want to compete with the best of the best, a strictly defensive approach cannot be an option, even against top teams.
Need for striker and CB more evident than ever
In this humbling affair, while the formation was the root of the issue, the lack of an actual number 9 to hold up the ball and allow others to get forward was made very clear as well. The main reason leaving one striker up top doesn’t work right now is because Everton do not have a true number 9 to play that role. Everyone knows that Rooney is better when playing off of someone else and, even though he came from Malaga as a striker, Sandro has shown his talents are better suited whipping balls in and making runs inside from the wings. The team does not have a solid front-man who can win aerial duels consistently while showing his strength in attacking the defense, and that has become a problem. It was so evident that, after the game, Koeman commented on the subject once again, saying that the team needed to bring in two more players before the end of the transfer window, a striker and one other player.
When it comes to the other player, it looks like it could be a defensive addition and it looks like it could be at CB. Yes, there are three current options at CB with Funes Mori hurt for a while, but Jagielka and Williams are not good enough to play with Keane in that role. They have become old and lack pace, and that showed as Chelsea were able to slide balls past them and take them on one-on-one, beating them almost every single time. It is also possible that Koeman may be afraid to go to two at the back, which seems to work better for Everton, because Keane with just one of them is a liability on one side of the defense. The addition of another CB would allow Koeman more versatility in the back and more options on a regular basis, especially with the Europa League group stage quickly approaching.
Everton gets the week off after this weekend due to international break, but will be back in action on September 9th as they take on Spurs at Goodison.
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