Chelsea v Everton: Five Things We Learned

by Paul McNamara

Everton emerged from a fast and furious encounter at Stamford Bridge with a point which was fair reward for the Blues’ mature and courageous performance.

The Toffees created a share of openings, too, with Bernard, Theo Walcott and Gylfi Sigurdsson all having opportunities of varying degrees of difficulty to land a bruising blow on the home team.

Chelsea, though, have been in prolific nick under Italian boss Maurizio Sarri and ensured Everton’s increasingly obdurate backline was handed the sternest of tests.

They passed it in accomplished style, enabling manager Marco Silva to reflect on an “important step” in his team’s growth.

Here, identifies five talking points from Sunday’s scoreless draw.

On the B of the Bang

British Olympic gold medal winning sprinter Linford Christie coined the above phrase.

Get caught rocking back in the blocks, reasoned Christie, and he would be dead in the water, reduced to observing the spikes of the runners ahead of him.

If an express start is necessary to compete in a loaded 100-metre race, then Premier League football waits for no man, either.

In 10 games across the weekend just gone, only one team overturned a deficit – and that was Cardiff City, who played against 10 men for 56 minutes of their home encounter with Brighton & Hove Albion.

Moreover, give teams of Chelsea’s calibre the sniff of an opportunity to grab the ascendancy and they will be over the hill and out of sight before you know it.

The positive fashion in which Everton went about their business from the first whistle, then, spoke of a side eager to impose itself on this contest.

The closing, harrying and sharp tackling was designed to disrupt Chelsea from their usual rhythm. This was about more than making life difficult for Sarri’s team, though.

Everton went at the home team with intent, the visitors attacking with purpose and quality.

The game was 23 minutes old before Chelsea produced anything of offensive significance, Marcos Alonso watching Willian’s free-kick onto his left boot and forcing Jordan Pickford into an athletic save.

Everton at this juncture had already struck at goal through Bernard, won a succession of set-pieces in and around Chelsea’s penalty area and strung together a clutch of skilful, pacey raids upfield.

Indeed, within two minutes Richarlison was having a shot deflected wide at the culmination of a purposeful Everton move.

Chelsea would have suspected they were in for a game at this point – and known full well that maintaining their Stamford Bridge strike rate of 2.5 goals per game this term was going to be a tall order indeed.

The mood had been set. Everton were switched on from the P of the peep of the referee’s first whistle. Consequently, they contested this duel on an even footing from gun to tape.

Debut Delight

Six outfield players Everton signed in the summer: every one of them has clocked on for duty in consummate fashion.

Yerry Mina completed the set with an imperious performance at the heart of a meticulously-prepared defensive unit which – by applying a blend of intelligence, organisation, bravery and downright bloody mindedness – prevented Chelsea from scoring in front of their own supporters for the first time this season.

Mina had a long time to think about this day – “one of the most important of my life”, the player confessed.

He would have had this date marked in his diary, given the ineligibility for the fixture of fellow centre-half Kurt Zouma.

Mina would have known, too, that only a display of the highest order would do if he had designs on retaining his spot.

Zouma has been in splendid form alongside the similarly on-song Michael Keane.

Plenty for Mina to consider, then, but his decision-making and ease on the ball from the outset revealed a player focused entirely on the job in hand – and comfortable in his own skin.

By the time he stood, even his 6ft 5in frame dwarfed by Stamford Bridge’s East Stand looming overhead, unwrapping his man-of-the-match prize, Mina had made quite the first impression on Evertonians.

He had even been treated to an airing of his own song from the travelling supporters, an honour which typically takes much longer to be conferred on a new boy.

Mina was flawless in the air and not far off the same level with his distribution – he was successful with 90.6 per cent of his passes, a figure surpassed by only Chelsea left-back Marcos Alonso among the game’s starters.

Raw statistics tell us he made three clearances, recovered the ball for his side on three occasions and struck five accurate long passes – more than any of his teammates, bar goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.

But it was watching Mina fizz a pass through a narrow corridor into the feet of Idrissa Gana Gueye with the game dangling on a knife edge after half-time and seeing him decisively block a shot from the rapidly advancing Eden Hazard, which made you appreciate his quality.

Richarlison and Bernard, Lucas Digne and Kurt Zouma, Andre Gomes. And now Yerry Mina. Half-a-dozen international footballers seamlessly bedding into Marco Silva’s fast maturing Everton.

Right place, right time

This was only the second time in 12 matches this term Everton have not hit the target. There was nevertheless, the continuation of a royal blue theme at Stamford Bridge.

The one which determines that opponents preparing to face Everton must brace themselves to be attacked from all angles.

No disguising the threat posed by Richarlison, currently the slugger at the front of the team charged with coming out firing.

He lived up to his billing, here, taking aim inside two minutes. Bernard followed in his compatriot’s tracks soon after, sending a shot screaming fractionally past the post.

Gylfi Sigurdsson – there can’t be many players, like Sigurdsson, who bring supporters to their feet simply by collecting possession within 25 yards of goal – whipped a strike from distance which would have lodged underneath the crossbar but for the fingertips of Kepa Arrizabalaga.

In addition, Theo Walcott was played in on goal by Sigurdsson, who also sent over a cross which had Bernard fleetingly dreaming of bursting the net in front of the Evertonians who sang his name with such gusto from early in the game.

Richarlison has scored six Premier League goals this term – only three players have hit more, good going given the Brazilian sat out two matches in September.

The sublime Sigurdsson has hit five and Walcott has added two. Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who replaced Richarlison with the clock ticking down, has scored twice, too. Likewise Cenk Tosun.

There was a very brief glance of what we might see from Yerry Mina in opposition boxes, too, when the Colombian nearly took advantage of David Luiz misreading Lucas Digne’s early free-kick delivery into the danger zone.

Mina, of course, established his reputation on the world stage during the summer as much for his efficiency in front of goal – he scored three times in three appearances for his country at the World Cup – as for his athleticism and resilience in defence.

Andre Gomes, meanwhile has had six attempts at goal in his four Everton appearances. Fellow midfielder Idrissa Gana Gueye thudded a post with an effort in the recent Goodison Park meeting with Brighton & Hove Albion.

And the sources of Everton’s remaining goals this term? Michael Keane, who got on the end of another one of Digne’s laser-like set-pieces at Chelsea but headed over, and Seamus Coleman, whose thrilling strike to restore the Blues' advantage over Brighton nine days ago was his 25th for the Club.

Heavens, Everton even field a goalkeeper who could pass muster as a box-to-box midfielder.

Go Gana

Idrissa Gana Gueye is increasingly being touted as the best Premier League midfielder of his ilk outside the teams which traditionally compete for Champions League spots.

It is a tag most players would wear fairly contentedly. Gana’s game, though, is reaching standards which would entitle him to feel slightly affronted by the description.

Certainly, he did not suffer by comparison with any of Chelsea’s celebrated midfield triumvirate of Italy international Jorginho, two-times Premier League and recent World Cup winner N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic, the ball-player on loan at the capital club from Real Madrid.

We already knew Gana could tackle. And that he boasts a sixth sense for where play will unfold, enabling him to complete 143 interceptions across the past two seasons, and a further 28 already in this one.

His 57 tackles this term, in fact, is 12 more than the number contested by any other player in the division. He topped the charts in that respect in 2016-17 with 135 and his 117 last term was surpassed only by Kante.

Gana catching his breath, though, is a rare sight indeed.

During a brief pause in play and with the number 84 illuminated on the scoreboard clock in west London, Gana took a second to inhale deeply and shake out his aching limbs.

This is what playing for Marco Silva looks like. “Hard work,” agreed a beaming Gana afterwards.

The extra demands placed on the Senegalese by his manager are teasing more and more from this combative midfielder.

He is making three more passes per game than in 2017-18 and at a higher success rate. He has hit 35 accurate long balls this term – 3.19 per game – compared to 71 at 2.15 per match last season, a sure sign of a player introducing greater ambition to his football.

Silva explained before this game how Gana had been asked to deviate a touch from his previous role since Andre Gomes came into the side four matches ago.

The player has sensed an opportunity to advance his game under Silva and run with it.

Gana represents the embodiment of a side making very good progress.

Making a point

Only come the final reckoning will we know the tangible worth to Everton of the point levered out of Stamford Bridge.

No need to hold back before passing judgement on the psychological value of the result, though.

“An important step,” Marco Silva called it. The manager has often cited the importance of “supporting our work with results”.

You can tell somebody they are capable of achieving something until you are blue in the face. Nothing is more powerful, though, than concrete evidence.

So after Silva spent pre-season steadily introducing a new brand of football to his players, it was a significant boon when Everton dazed Wolverhampton Wanderers during vast chunks of the campaign’s opening game – playing with 10 men for a lot of that time. A further boost when they beat Southampton the following week.

The next “step” Silva wanted to take involved sitting on the team bus as it pulled away from one of English football’s strongholds and looking forward to dissecting a performance which yielded a positive result.

Everton’s players know, now, their manager’s faith was well invested. Here is a point to grab hold of and reserve for future reference.

When Silva next takes his side to formidable opposition territory, they can pitch up walking that bit taller.

And if they are put under the hammer at any stage, they can recall how Chelsea were repelled in similar circumstances.

A match which reaped one point, then. But which in the fullness of time could count for so much more.

Related Tags

Season Ticket, Lounge or We Are Everton Member?

Login then click HERE to check out the latest exclusive content, including player features, classic highlights, interviews and more.


View More