Chelsea 4-0 Everton
- Goals: Mason Mount (£6.1m), Pedro (£6.8m), Willian (£6.9m), Olivier Giroud (£6.5m)
- Assists: Pedro, Ross Barkley (£5.6m) x2, Willian
- Bonus: Barkley x3, Willian x2, Pedro x1
For the value that they have provided Fantasy managers this season, we can forgive Dominic Calvert-Lewin (£6.4m) and Richarlison (£8.3m) for their blanks at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Apart from a glorious one-on-one opportunity that Calvert-Lewin screwed wide after 25 minutes, Everton never really looked like scoring in west London.
The Toffees had a miserable three efforts on goal all afternoon, with only one of them, an ambitious Richarlison attempt from distance, forcing returning goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga (£5.4m) into action.
The strangely subdued visitors were quite simply second-best for the majority of the game, with Chelsea looking the hungrier and sharper on and off the ball and fully meriting the margin of victory.
As proven at Vicarage Road in Gameweek 28, even a juggernaut like Liverpool can have an off-day, and there will no doubt be a reaction from Carlo Ancelotti’s troops in the Merseyside derby next Monday.
However, there are legitimate concerns about Everton’s defence even when they are at their competitive best at the other end of the pitch.
Since Ancelotti took charge, only three teams have conceded more Premier League goals than the Toffees (17) and kept fewer clean sheets (two).
Granted, most of the goal concessions have been on the road and Everton enjoy home advantage against their cross-city rivals in Gameweek 30.
But Ancelotti’s side haven’t recorded a shut-out home or away in two months and have shipped an average of two goals per match since then.
The Italian’s preference for a 4-4-2 does occasionally leave Everton looking exposed in the middle of the park, particularly when they are currently without a true anchor in the Idrissa Gueye mould, and they completely lost the midfield battle at Chelsea on Sunday.
With the influential Jordan Henderson (£5.3m) expected back for the Merseyside derby, that could well be a key battleground at Goodison Park.
Right-back is also a problem position at the moment, especially with Seamus Coleman (£5.3m) out.
Djibril Sidibe‘s (£5.1m) attacking attributes have attracted a fair bit of Fantasy interest this season but he looks less comfortable going the other way and he had a truly dreadful game on Sunday, with Pedro (£6.8m) having a whale of a time down the Chelsea left.
Since Ancelotti took charge, only Bournemouth have allowed more chances from their right flank than the Toffees. That’s something that Andrew Robertson (£7.0m) and co may find to their advantage in Gameweek 30 but it wouldn’t be a huge shock if the Everton boss was making other arrangements after Sidibe’s horror show, perhaps by shifting Mason Holgate (£4.4m) out to right-back or by deploying an extra centre-half.
Ancelotti said after full-time:
It’s very disappointing. This is the first time I was so sad for the performance of the team. Everything was wrong. We were not good defensively, lost a lot of duels, were not compact and did a lot of mistakes.
Mason Mount (£6.1m) had already gone close to scoring before he found the back of the net, with Jordan Pickford (£5.3m) denying the England midfielder from ten yards early on after a superb pick out from Willian (£6.9m).
There were to be no heroics from Pickford soon after, however, with Mount turning and firing past the Everton goalkeeper after fine work from Pedro.
The Spaniard then got on the scoresheet himself, collecting Ross Barkley‘s (£5.6m) pass and sprinting clear of the visitors’ backline to double Chelsea’s lead.
Willian and Oliver Giroud (£6.5m) both went close in the first half before the Brazilian effectively killed the game after 50 minutes, arrowing a 25-yard effort beyond Pickford after being teed up by the busy Barkley.
Willian then turned provider for Chelsea’s final goal, sending over the cross that Giroud poked in from close range.
Further chances came and went but the introductions of teenagers Faustino Anjorin and Armando Broja (both £4.5m) late on, plus the experimental deployment of substitute Reece James (£5.0m) in midfield, was a clear indication that the game had ceased to become a contest long before full-time.
Chelsea enjoy some excellent fixtures before and after Blank Gameweek 31 and their two most-recent displays against Liverpool and Everton in cup and league have certainly caught the eye.
How best to tap into their attack is a big dilemma, however.
Pedro, Willian and Barkley all excelled in delivering double-digit hauls but Chelsea’s midfield is bloated and we still have N’Golo Kante (£5.0m), Mateo Kovacic (£5.3m), Jorginho (£4.9m), Christian Pulisic (£6.9m), Callum Hudson-Odoi (£5.3m) and Ruben Loftus-Cheek (£6.3m) to return in the not-so-distant future, to add to the competition for places.
Billy Gilmour‘s (£4.5m) fine display in the holding midfield role on Sunday will also give his manager a welcome headache.
Speaking after the match, Frank Lampard said:
You will always need your squad through the year. We have a lot of injuries but the only way to tackle that is to work and fight and play at a high intensity with energy and to trust in each other.
Kepa has been out of the team and showed character and he has come in for two clean sheets and made saves, and had a brave moment at the end of this game. Ross Barkley and Marcos Alonso have come back in and that is what we need.
It does not matter if you are four months from the end of your contract or out the team for a month, you have to train every day full pelt, be a brilliant teammate and when you come in you have to try to contribute.
Giroud would seem to have the upper hand in attack, meanwhile, although Tammy Abraham (£7.5m) is expected back towards the end of March.
The Chelsea boss said of the France international after full-time:
We had Olly playing well. He is selfless and then you must have runners and energy around him to make the most of it. And stick balls in the box like we did for his goal. He is a personality and we need that.
One of the more secure starters in Lampard’s starting XI, Mount, was withdrawn shortly before the hour-mark on Sunday and appeared to be feeling his hamstring before heading straight down the tunnel after his substitution.
James’ benching was a reminder that we’re never truly sure about which defenders Lampard will pick on a week-to-week basis, although the versatile Cesar Azpilicueta (£5.8m) did start his 15th league match in a row.
There was also another run-out for Marcos Alonso (£6.1m) but, in a back four rather than a wing-back system, he wasn’t quite the attacking menace he had been in previous weeks.
Chelsea XI (4-3-3): Arrizabalaga; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Zouma, Alonso; Barkley, Gilmour, Mount (James 60′); Willian (Anjorin 71′), Giroud (Broja 86′), Pedro.
Everton XI (4-4-2): Pickford; Sidibe, Keane, Holgate, Digne; Bernard (Walcott 46′), Gomes, Davies (Kean 58′), Sigurdsson; Calvert-Lewin (Gordon 76′), Richarlison.
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