Chelsea VS Everton A (August 6th 2022) Match review
Chelsea kicks off the 22/23 campaign with a hard-fought win against and albeit wounded Everton side. Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea were able to finally win at Goodison park, a ground that they previously been winless at since 2017. Even though the performance was not one to catch the eye, it was significant that Chelsea gained the three points two weeks after Thomas Tuchel had stated that his team might not be ready for this match.
The only goal of the game came from the spot as Jorginho slotted away a penalty with an abnormal run up compared to his normal hop, skip and a jump. Most likely, this was because of the opposition goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford, who had previously saved his penalty in the Euro 2020 final. The penalty came as a result of a foul by Abdoulaye Doucouré on Ben Chilwell, who earnt his first premier league start since his long-term injury sustained against Juventus last November. Chilwell had a very mixed game as whilst he did win the penalty that ultimately won Chelsea the match, the rest of his performance was fairly underwhelming for many fans. However, this is understandable when contextualising that he has only recently returned from his long-term injury.
Frank Lampard's Everton put up a good fight against Chelsea and frustrated them with a solid defence but became undone due to their absences and injury problems. In particular, their lack of presence up front as a result of the sale of Richarlison and the injuries to Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Rondon. Everton were also weakened early on in the match after Ben Godfrey suffered a fracture in his lower leg after a solid challenge on Kai Havertz, this injury may cause him to be absent for 2-3 months. Everton's biggest threat to Chelsea going forward was their Young Player of the Season and their Player's Player of the Season, Anthony Gordon, who was a constant threat both on and off the ball. Azpilicueta, who had recently signed a new two year deal, had a tough battle against Gordon throughout the 90 minutes as Gordon was able to muscle him off the ball and use his fast bursts of pace to leave him in the dust. Unfortunately for Everton, Gordon was also their only significant threat as debutant, McNeil and Gray struggled to make an impact apart from when Thiago Silva was forced into making a last minute block from Gray's shot after some miscommunication between Silva and Mendy.
Thiago Silva was awarded Man of The Match and rightly so as the 37 year old defender continues to defy the idea of ageing, putting out performances that elite defenders would only wish to have during their prime. Of course, whilst his performances will stay consistent throughout this season, it will be a big ask for him to play as many games as he did last season as seen in the later stages of the game where he got cramp and was fortunately still able to play the rest of the match. It is possible to argue that the cramp may have occurred due to this game being the first of the season meaning that his body may not be adjusted yet to the constant high intensities of the premier league. This could be true as Koulibaly, a new arrival for Chelsea also sustained cramp earlier in the match. It is important that Chelsea are can correctly manage Silva's fitness as having an elite level defender such as him was the difference between Chelsea winning the game and stopping Everton equalising. In particular he was most dominant in the air despite his slightly smaller build compared to other centre backs, winning 75% of his aerial duels, the highest percentage of aerial duels compared to all the players from both sides.
The only other defender on the pitch that would rival Silva in ability was his left centre back and new signing Koulibaly who showed Chelsea fans exactly what they can look forward to in the future. In the Serie A he was widely known as one the most consistent, high quality defenders along side the likes of Chiellini and Bonucci. Whilst a lot of Chelsea fans will consider him as a Rudiger replacement, it is important to remember that Koulibaly is his own player with a different playstyle, whilst he is a very aggressive defender that is not afraid to get into a slide tackle, his overall play is much calmer than Rudiger's. He won't dribble the ball up the pitch and blast it over the bar from 40 yards, but he will pick out players from close range to break lines of defence, it was Koulibaly's precision to pick out Chilwell through the Everton defenders to put him in the position to win a penalty. There was one or two times where Koulibaly struggled to pick out a teammate but in my opinion that is less to do with his quality as a player but more learning how his teammates operate off the ball. Koulibaly's use of his aggression means that he is exceptionally good at pressuring the opponent almost instantly, causing them to lose the ball. Against Everton he was able to constantly do this and win the ball in Everton's half to kickstart a Chelsea attack. As previously mentioned, Koulibaly did sustain cramp but according to Tuchel, that was all it was meaning that he will fortunately be available for selection against Spurs.
Koulibaly was not the only new signing to impress, Raheem Sterling showed off his electric pace and dynamic dribbling that was able to allow Chelsea to penetrate the Everton defence. Sterling completed 3 dribbles against Everton which was significantly more than his attacking counterparts in Mount and Havertz who were unable to complete a single dribble. Sterling was the main threat for Chelsea going forward and it felt like Chelsea could only create a significant chance if he had the ball. This was because Sterling's agile and dynamic playstyle added a new dimension to the Chelsea attack which had previously been 1 dimensional as Mount and Kai respectively do not have the same level of ability in 1 on 1 dribbling as Sterling has. His movement was also key for Chelsea as he got himself in dangerous areas and was picked out by Marc Cucurella, who made an impressive 20 minute cameo a day after signing for Chelsea, unfortunately Sterling's effort was brilliantly blocked by Everton's Mykolenko which stopped a certain goal. Whilst Sterling had a quality Premier League debut for Chelsea, if Chelsea want to get the best out of him they need to add a creative attacking force to their side. The chance given to him by Cucurella was his only significant chance goal, aside from when he scored from an offside position, which means Sterling won't be able to put up the same attacking numbers as he did at City if he is given a sufficient number of chances to score. In my opinion whether Chelsea sign that creative force or not, Sterling will succeed at Chelsea but he will find more success at Chelsea if he has the creativity around him to feed him chances.
The most significant negative in the match was Chelsea's flat attack, even with the positive performance of Sterling. This resulted in Chelsea being unable to score a second, putting more pressure on their defence. The worry that many Chelsea fans have going into this season was the attack, last season Mount was the only consistent forward in his performances while other forwards struggled to maintain a regular spot in the starting XI due to their varying quality of performance. This worry is still prevalent among Chelsea fans as it seems that the main transfer targets would not fix Chelsea's attacking problems. Havertz and Mount failed to inspire Chelsea fans with confidence in the attack as Havertz struggled to impact the game while Mount was uncharacteristically quiet throughout the game. If these two continue to struggle in future games, the question of where the goals will come from will quickly emerge. Last season, Chelsea even in their best form had this problem, as they relied mostly on their wingbacks and defenders for the attacking output. I would agree that Chelsea's biggest problem as of now is their attack and if Chelsea cannot fix this problem before the end of the transfer window it is highly likely that Chelsea will drop points in games where they are in control as they are unable to put the ball in the back of the net. The most frustrating part of the match for Chelsea fans was how ineffective Chelsea were from their corner. Chelsea set record of the highest number of corners in the first half with 13, they ended the match with a total of 16 corners, scoring from 0. Whilst this is not as big of a problem for Chelsea as their struggling attack, scoring from these corners when the attack is struggling would relieve the pressure on both the attack and defence.
Overall, this was a great result for Chelsea at a tough ground to play at. With a difficult clash against a highly rated Spurs side at Stamford Bridge this Sunday, it was important that Chelsea had confidence going into the game after winning the first match of the season. There is work to be done in this Chelsea side but there is also a potential for this team to be successful in the future.