Chelsea players left much to be desired in a possible Double Gameweek 32 audition at Goodison Park.
The Blues’ assets were already popular acquisitions heading into the weekend just gone, with Maurizio Sarri’s side having unaffected Premier League fixtures in Blank Gameweeks 31 and 33.
Demand for Chelsea players may increase further over the international break, however, with Sarri’s troops potentially having a Double Gameweek 32.
We’ll hopefully find out for definite in the coming days but yesterday’s announcement that Spurs will face Brighton in Double Gameweek 35 would surely only increase the likelihood of Chelsea’s own meeting with the Seagulls – which was postponed because of a clash with the EFL Cup final – being rescheduled for Gameweek 32.
That midweek slot in early April would seem ideal as it doesn’t clash with any UEFA Europa League rounds.
If the above happens, Chelsea would enjoy an appealing double-header against Cardiff away and Brighton at home immediately after the international break.
Chelsea’s latest defeat on the road – their fourth loss in five away league matches contested in 2019 – is the focus of our Scout Notes below.
Everton 2-0 Chelsea
- Goals: Richarlison (£6.5m), Gylfi Sigurdsson (£7.3m)
- Assists: Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£5.3m)
The final match of Blank Gameweek 31 was the cliched game of two halves and Chelsea’s season in a microcosm.
Just when the Blues appear to have turned a corner, they promptly deliver a reminder that “Sarri-ball” is still very much a work in progress and that their Fantasy assets are an unreliable commodity.
The improved performance in the EFL Cup final and the 2-0 win over Spurs in Gameweek 28 hinted at a possible resurgence but the unconvincing display in the 1-1 draw with Wolves last Sunday was followed by this latest Jekyll-and-Hyde showing at Goodison Park.
The opening exchanges boded well for Fantasy managers who had invested in Chelsea players ahead of Saturday’s FPL deadline.
The visitors ripped into Everton from the off, with the lively Eden Hazard (£10.9m) testing Jordan Pickford (£4.9m) with a low shot before thumping the upright with a deflected effort just a minute later.
Gonzalo Higuain (£9.6m) then scuffed Chelsea’s only “big chance” of the game following an excellent pass from Jorginho (£4.6m) before Pedro (£6.4m) shanked a Marcos Alonso (£6.4m) cut-back wide and then narrowly missed Pickford’s left-hand post following a fine solo run.
Those who invested in David Luiz (£5.9m) et al would have been confident of a clean sheet based on the events on the first half, too: Chelsea bossed the shot count 10-3 before the interval, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin‘s (£5.3m) off-target header from a Gylfi Sigurdsson (£7.3m) free-kick about as close as Everton came to seriously troubling the visitors’ goal.
Everything changed after the break, however, with Chelsea pinned back from kick-off.
Bernard (£5.9m) was inches away from turning in a Calvert-Lewin cross and Andre Gomes (£5.4m) tested Kepa Arrizabalaga (£5.4m) before the hosts finally opened the scoring on 48 minutes.
Whilst Chelsea’s second-half display wasn’t quite as bad as the one they served up at Bournemouth in Gameweek 24, there were parallels between that heavy defeat and their 2-0 reverse at Goodison on Sunday.
Just like at the Vitality, the Blues’ defence that had looked so comfortable in the opening 45 minutes switched off after the break and allowed Richarlison (£6.5m) to nod home a rebound from Calvert-Lewin’s blocked header.
The recalled Alonso, who was prominent enough in the attacking third and registered six penalty box touches, then demonstrated his defensive limitations by trodding on Richarlison’s foot in the Chelsea box to gift Sigurdsson the chance to double Everton’s lead.
While Kepa saved the Iceland international’s initial spot-kick, the Toffees’ playmaker followed up the rebound to score his 12th Premier League goal of the season.
Substitute Theo Walcott (£6.0m) could have added further gloss to the scoreline late on but had his effort saved by the Chelsea goalkeeper, who left Merseyside with three bonus and two save points.
A Higuain shot that Pickford saved, an Alonso effort into the side-netting and an Olivier Giroud (£7.7m) header that was blocked by a team-mate was about the sum total of Chelsea’s attacking endeavours in the second half and it’s Sarri’s apparent lack of a plan B whenever his side happens to be struggling that really acts as a deterrent from a Fantasy perspective.
Chelsea could very well comfortably beat Cardiff and Brighton in (a possible) Double Gameweek 32 but Sarri’s stubbornness is a disincentive if things aren’t going according to the script.
The Blues’ head coach hardly inspires confidence when he says he doesn’t have any answers to his side’s problems – as he again did after full-time:
I don’t know what happened. We played the best first half of the season, we could have scored four or five times, and then suddenly we stopped playing. It’s very strange.
I cannot understand it. We changed the system but it was the same. It’s very difficult. I think the problem was mental.
If you have a mental problem suddenly on the pitch the system and the tactics is not enough.
Sarri added in his post-match press conference that his sixth-placed side currently have a ceiling because of their mental block:
At the moment this is our limit, I think, because if we are able to play like in the first half with consistency then we are in another position in the league table, but we have this problem. It is a big limit for us, because we lost a similar match in Wolverhampton and today we lost again in this way.
Hazard started drifting across the frontline and into deeper positions as Chelsea struggled to regain a foothold in the match, while Higuain’s clever movement was again hindered by a lack of service as well as his own shortage of pace and profligacy in front of goal.
The Argentinean striker has scored just three goals in ten competitive appearances for Chelsea since joining the club, though Sarri pointed out that the on-loan Juventus forward had been struggling with illness this week:
Today he had an opportunity but too few for him, I think. He can do more. He had a problem at the beginning of the week, with a strong stomach ache and a fever so today it is normal he was able to play for 60 to 65 minutes, but he needs to improve his physical and mental condition.
Everton’s curious season continues.
Fantasy managers have deserted the likes of Richarlison, Sigurdsson and Lucas Digne (£5.2m) in recent months but the Toffees’ two most-popular mid-price midfielders have scored 24 Premier League goals between them this season and only Manchester City have kept more clean sheets than Silva’s defence in 2019.
Everton have never really fully convinced despite these stand-out statistics above and Silva only seems one bad result away from further pressure.
The Toffees had imploded at Newcastle last weekend and were emphatically second-best in the first half against Chelsea before their resurgence after the interval.
It would be easier for me just to speak about the second half. The first half I didn’t like it at all, we were not there from the first minute.
What we did in the second half was everything we planned during the week. I didn’t like the first half and told our players at half-time that they have to do everything different.
And they did. They showed great attitude, character and personality second half but we have to do it from the first minute.
Desire is a strong word. We weren’t without desire. They work really hard every day, I can’t say anything about their attitude. But maybe we weren’t focused on our role. What I saw in the second half is what we do every day in training.
Having produced some below-par displays in recent months, Richarlison delivered a better performance on the right flank – though was helped no end by the fact he was up against Alonso.
Calvert-Lewin was perhaps Everton’s most impressive player and at £5.3m is an interesting budget forward option for perhaps Blank Gameweek 33.
This was Calvert-Lewin’s fourth straight Premier League start and his manager paid tribute to him after full-time:
He did really well again. He’s a young player who at this moment has the responsibility to be our number nine. To be the number nine for Everton is not an easy role at all. We have Cenk [Tosun] and Richarlison who can play there.
He’s doing well. He’s developing every day. Even without the ball, he’s a player who is starting to understand better what we want.
He’s growing as a football player. He has the conditions to become a very important player for us.
Pickford bounced back from the horror show at St. James’ Park, meanwhile, to register his ninth clean sheet of the season – five of which have come in the last ten Gameweeks.
Silva said of the England goalkeeper:
It was a fantastic performance from Jordan Pickford. He had some very, very good moments and helped us to win the match. Not just because of Jordan we lost the last game though.
Everton XI (4-2-3-1): Pickford; Coleman, Keane, Mina, Digne; Gomes (Schneiderlin 67′), Gueye; Richarlison, Bernard (Walcott 77mins 6), Sigurdsson; Calvert-Lewin.
Chelsea XI (4-3-3): Arrizabalaga; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Rudiger, Alonso; Jorginho (Hudson-Odoi 73′) Barkley (Loftus-Cheek 65′), Kante; Pedro, Hazard; Higuain (Giroud 65′).