Well, it’s that time of the year again: a trip to our favorite bogey ground, Goodison Park. A place where top teams like to struggle to take away points against an Everton team that have quality, but lack the squad depth to challenge for Europe.
One positive is the returns of Frank Lampard and John Mikel Obi to a depleted Chelsea midfield, as it gives manager Andre Villas-Boas a much more dangerous-looking bench than he’s put out in recent weeks.
However, as shown in their win over Manchester City, they can prove a tough nut to crack and are not afraid to win a match ugly.
Without further adieu, here are five things that I think about the match against Everton, with a general thought or two thrown in.
Everton are exactly the type of team that has given us trouble in the past and continues to give us trouble even now.
Suffice it to say, the teams that give us the most trouble are the ones that have a few skilled players, but like to sit deep and like to counter from an organized defence. This is no secret problem of ours, but it’s one that has become magnified over this season. Part of our problem is the obsession with thinking that these types of teams should be destroyed by 3 or 4 goals, when the reality is that they almost should be shown more respect and require more concentration. Most of these teams should love playing us because our default option when facing these teams is to try to play “over” them, or “around” them, but never “through” them. It works to their advantage because they’ll see lots of long balls and lots of passing on the flanks, but never a ball that slices them open. They can live with that all day and as we pour men forward in attack, it gives them a chance to counter more easily.
Do not underestimate what Landon Donovan does for Everton.
Donovan may be just an American international, but from watching him as an American, I can tell you that he’s a dangerous player in the EPL, not in the sense that he’s a flying winger with great skill, but that he’s skillful enough with a great head on his shoulders. Without Seamus Coleman and Leon Osman, Everton fail to have a true right winger in their side. Donovan gives them that position along with an experienced head on his shoulders. He’s always in good positions to receive the ball and, more often than not, plays the right pass.
Goodbye, Louis Saha.
Seriously. I don’t think there’s a Chelsea supporter alive that isn’t glad to see him off to Tottenham, most likely to sit on the training table or sit on the bench behind Adebayor. That man seems to only score against us, and that goes for his time at Everton and his time at Manchester United.
In our side, 4-2-3-1 might be the most dangerous formation, but it makes us more predictable.
While I believe that 4-2-3-1 is the best formation, the one that plays most to our strengths, I also believe that 4-2-3-1 leaves us fewer options to change to a more attacking side once we bring in the substitutions. If you look at our squad, we have a lot of central midfielders, but only four wide players. By employing one of those four, Juan Mata, in the hole behind a striker, and using two others to flank him in the wide areas, it leaves one wide player on the bench, or none until next week when Salomon Kalou returns. It makes for a real problem because the default substitution pattern will be to return to 4-3-3 by sacrificing an attacker for a holding midfielder. Not a positive change by any means.
Leave AVB alone.
I believe that part of the reason that so much pressure is now being heaped on Villas-Boas now is not just coming from the press, but it’s also coming from the Chelsea support. It’s no secret that Roman Abramovich is a football fan, and as such, genuinely tries to have his finger on the pulse of the supporters of Chelsea Football Club. The issue is that we keep booing managers and players off the pitch when things aren’t going right. Don’t think Abramovich hasn’t noticed that and may be adding to the pressure. Think about it. After Sir Alex tore down the spine of the Treble side after selling Beckham, how many trophies did they win before Ronaldo and Rooney were ready? 2. When Arsene Wenger tore down the Invincibles, how many trophies has he won trying to get back to that point? 1. It takes time and continuity to rebuild.
Prediction is a 1-1 draw. I just can’t see us being able to break down Everton the way that we need to right now. Plus, I’m not sure the side’s state of mind after the United match.