On Saturday, Everton continue their daunting October stretch with a trip to London, where they face a Chelsea side running into some ominous form. David Moyes initially always found Chelsea the toughest nut to crack, failing to beat them on numerous occasions. A Louis Saha double at Goodison Park two seasons back gave Moyes his first ever Premier League victory over the Londoners who, at the time, were the only side the Scot had not conquered during his Everton tenure.
Since then, surprisingly Chelsea have only mustered one win out of nine Premier League games against Everton. Last season the Toffees enjoyed one of their most successful recent campaigns against a perennially challenging foe, staying unbeaten in four games. After two hard-fought draws, they knocked Carlo Ancelotti’s men out of the FA Cup on penalties. In the league they recorded a draw at Stamford Bridge, and despite having Seamus Coleman sent off in the fixture at Goodison Park, a stunning individual goal from Jermaine Beckford secured a second Chelsea career win for David Moyes.
So, four matches undefeated, and four Premier League points, what exactly happened? Looking at the two league fixtures, despite having home supremacy in the first match last season, Chelsea were unconvincing. They seemed too casual, even sloppy at times and at the end, Everton very nearly collected all three points despite it being an even contest. Chelsea managed eight shots to Everton’s 13, the Toffees also sent in 25 crosses to 20 and overall each side created 10 chances. As would be expected, Ancelotti’s side kept greater possession, 57%-43%, but if either side were to have won this close encounter, David Moyes’ side may have been the more deserving.
The fixture at Goodison Park was more what one would expect from a match between two clubs with such contrasting finances and subsequent transfer pedigree. Chelsea bossed most categories, although Seamus Coleman’s red card early in the second half hugely contorts several columns. Chelsea pretty much owned possession 65%-35%, they created 18 chances to eight and hit 14 shots to nine, yet only seven of these were registered before Coleman’s red and surely Everton would have competed for possession more with 11 men.
Whilst these statistics could initiate some hope in Evertonians, for 11 against 11 they are pretty even, it is important to remember the Toffees will be tackling a different animal in Andre-Villas Boas’ Chelsea. Whilst last season, Carlo Ancelotti’s side seemed slower in possession and a fraction more predictable, this season Chelsea have revamped their offensive strategies and seem a more cohesive and potent unit. In Juan Mata, Chelsea also now have one of the more creative players in Premier League, who is only improving as he adapts to his new surroundings. Villas-Boas has successfully infused some youth into his line-up which is blending well with some rejuvenated older names. As the season has evolved, Chelsea have played better and better.
Despite this being from an Everton stance, it is important to focus on Chelsea’s fortunes, given their status as one of the Premier League’s elite. The form they turn up with will dictate many events on Saturday. In the two matches last season against Everton, Chelsea were anything but clinical, converting just one goal from 28 chances created and 22 shots. In contrast, their two most recent fixtures have seen them score nine goals from 24 chances created and 30 shots.
In short, Chelsea are now in rich scoring form and seem a revived group. Were they to be given the same chances and shots from last season against Everton, this current side would expect to finish off at least two or three. They are also passing better and preventing more shots coming in at goal, showing how much more of a challenge Saturday’s trip will be for Everton. David Moyes will need his side to not only defend manfully, but also keep Chelsea chances to a minimum.
If Didier Drogba plays, Everton must contain him. He boasts an impressive scoring ratio against the Toffees, hitting the net seven times in his last nine Premier League outings against them. Louis Saha has recorded similar success against Chelsea, with five goals in six recent games (in all competitions). However, the Frenchman is in contrasting form to Drogba, with only one start this season and no Premier League goal since March. On a more positive note for Everton, Chelsea have not registered a clean sheet for six games. The last time they went seven games without one was 2003, but to capitalise on this, Everton are going to need Tim Cahill and indeed Louis Saha to rediscover their scoring touch.
Despite not always feasting on the Toffees, Chelsea will be confident at home, especially with nine wins and 28 points out of their last 10 league games at Stamford Bridge. In terms of a prediction, to call a Chelsea win goes against my entire heritage, but any kind of result is going to take a mammoth effort from Everton. Chelsea have not lost in 16 matches at home to Everton. They seem to have adjusted to Andre Villas-Boas’ new methods and unfortunately for the Toffees, seem to be heating up at just the wrong time for David Moyes’ side.
That being said, of those 16 Premier League games at Stamford Bridge, Everton have battled hard to take nine draws and the contests have generally been tight affairs. Evertonians will hope the sense of injustice and frustration still stemming from the Merseyside derby two weeks ago will trigger a passionate performance and a repeat of Everton’s rewards earned against Chelsea last season.