The Debrief: Unpredictable Blues keep opponents guessing

A fifth consecutive home clean sheet helped Chelsea extend their undefeated record under the new boss as Everton were beaten at Stamford Bridge, and here we use the standout statistics from the game to analyse some of the major talking points…

Fluid front three and fashionable false nine

Thomas Tuchel’s decision to change half his outfield team from our impressive victory at Liverpool four days earlier took some by surprise but his attacking selection paid dividends. Kai Havertz was deployed as a false nine, given licence to roam and find pockets of space rather than lead the line in the manner of a traditional centre-forward.

His link-up play was crucial to our forward endeavours and no other starter could surpass his impressive pass completion of 95 per cent. Further to that, the German won two aerial duels and completed two dangerous dribbles that cut through the heart of the Toffees defence.

In terms of game impact, the 21-year-old could reasonably stake claim to key assists for both our goals. It was his first-half shot that deflected off Ben Godfrey and beyond Jordan Pickford for the opener and then, in the second period, it was he who was felled by Pickford to win the penalty which Jorginho converted.

In the 3-4-2-1 system, Havertz actually dropped deepest of the attacking trio, with Timo Werner and Callum Hudson-Odoi more advanced either side of him, as the below graphic shows. That proved problematic for Everton’s central defenders, who didn’t know whether to stick tight or stay in position to man the spaces he vacated.

The Chelsea head coach indicated in his post-match press conference that the game plan was to thwart the man-marking approach he expected from the visitors by playing with speed and clever movement in attacking areas. Once again, Tuchel’s tactics were spot-on and worked a treat.

xG excellence

Since Tuchel took the reins in late January, the Blues have conceded an average of 0.4 Expected Goals Against (xGA) per game in the Premier League. In layman’s terms, this means we are giving away a single big chance to our opponents roughly once every two matches, and has been the foundation to our run of two goals conceded in nine league games.

Against Everton, the xGA figure was 0.3, as it was at Anfield on Thursday, and we conceded just one shot on target. That is the fifth time we’ve allowed just a single effort on target or fewer in a Premier League game since Tuchel’s arrival.

Key to that defensive resilience was the returning Kurt Zouma, who won a game-high five aerial duels up against the springy Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, as well as Andreas Christensen, who excelled once again in the middle of the back three. The Dane recorded two tackles, one a great last-ditch intervention, and won two-thirds of his own duels in the air.

James and Alonso provide the width

On the flanks, the Chelsea wing-backs got the better of their opposite numbers by playing on the front foot. Only Mateo Kovacic in central midfield had more touches of the ball than Reece James, who also completed a game-high six take-ons, double any other player on the field.

Such was the young defender’s attacking output that he even recorded two shots at goal, one blocked and the other off target. Down the other end, there was one crunching tackle on Richarlison that would have been cheered like a goal had Stamford Bridge been packed to the rafters, as it was most recently exactly a year previously for a meeting with the same opponents.

While James did not test his England team-mate Pickford, the Everton keeper was certainly a busy man, making eight saves from the home side’s tally of 19 efforts. Alonso, meanwhile, made more key passes (four) than anybody else in the game.

Other stats of interest

Kovacic’s control of the contest is illustrated by his game-high 9.6 per cent possession. Next best were Christensen (8.9 per cent) and Azpilicueta (8.4 per cent).

Of our 19 attempts, nine were on target, four blocked and six wayward. Timo Werner and Alonso accounted for two on-target efforts apiece.

Edouard Mendy’s latest clean sheet means no other goalkeeper in Europe’s major leagues has kept more clean sheets than the Senegalese international since Tuchel took charge of the Blues.

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