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Following a resilient display to see off Spurs at Wembley last weekend, Chelsea were expected to show more ambition in their play, hosting Everton at the Bridge on Sunday.
The Blues didn’t disappoint, and here are the main talking points from the game.
Fabregas’ late runs
While Frank Lampard was still around Chelsea never had to worry about goals coming from midfield.
He was the best midfielder in Europe at timing his runs into the box, initiate contact and often score from a single touch. Unfortunately, this ability to run late into the danger zone and arrive unmarked to score has been somewhat lost.
Cesc Fabregas has been talked up for his creative and outstanding passing abilities, rightly so, but this aspect of his game has been vastly underrated. More often than not, he is the one in the current Chelsea team to initiate play from deep, follow through, and time his run well enough to get on the end of a pass or cross, unmarked in the penalty area.
That’s exactly what the Spaniard has done to open the score against the Toffees. After leaving Willian in charge of the ball, he timed his run perfectly to get it back around the six-yard box for a quick one-two with Alvaro Morata and finished expertly with a toe poke from the outside of the boot.
Aside from scoring the opener, Fabregas ran the show offensively for Chelsea, particularly in the first half.
With Eden Hazard back in training but not yet fit for competitive fixtures, Willian seems to be entrusted with the kind of freedom usually afforded to the Belgian magician.
Despite starting on the right behind the striker, Willian was the one player in the front three, who seemed to move around the most.
While Morata and Pedro played to their strengths with direct and vertical runs, Willian was the one to drop deep, collect the ball, link up with the midfield and create plays for others, alongside Cesc Fabregas.
He helped set the tempo offensively.
The goal scored will do him a lot of good.
Morata didn’t have a stellar game by any stretch of the imagination, but he had one clear chance on goal and took it expertly. After missing a similar opportunity against Spurs last weekend, he made amends with an expert header.
Looking at the missed chance against Spurs and both goals against Burnley and now Everton, a trend seems to emerge. Both goals, and goal chance were created with a lofted cross coming from the half space to the right of the penalty box, and curved for impact right in between the two center backs.
This hints of a training ground drill, and I’m sure defenses will notice it and make it harder to reproduce, but this move has certainly been efficient thus far.
The goal will help him grow in confidence, but it is clear that Morata is still struggling with the hold up play that will be expected of him at Chelsea.
His movement is outstanding, his finishing is clinical, but the one part he will need to improve on to become a great at Chelsea, is his ability to retain the ball and allow time for his teammates to get up the field; especially when Chelsea plays in a low block against tough opposition, as was the case against Spurs.
Morata’s combination play usually revolves around quick one-twos and layoffs. He will need to show better use of his body and technique to fight off opponents and bring others into play.
Having evolved from the sentinel in front of the defense at the beginning of last season, into a destructive box to box midfielder as he previously was at Leicester, Conte has made it public he is working on getting Kante to contribute more offensively.
It seems the relentless midfielder has taken it into his stride and I believe we are witnessing the next stage of his evolution. Kante is looking more and more confident going forward; he’s playing as a true box to box midfielder, carrying the ball forward at every opportunity, filling gaps offensively on the wings, and taking players on.
The best evidence this campaign remains his epic run against Spurs last weekend, which saw Harry Kane lie in his dust, after he galloped past him, and released Batshuayi through on goal.
Though that specific action didn’t directly lead to a goal, it set the stage for the following one, which saw Marcos Alonso secure all three points. Kante is already a stand-out midfield player; should he improve his attacking contribution, he will move into the next tier.
Chelsea would have expected a tough test against a new look Everton, but truth is they probably enjoyed one of the most routine games they will probably play this year.
With no shot on goal, Everton were never a match for the current champions — ideal send off for the upcoming international break.
Written by Charles Codo
Follow Charles on Twitter @soccerCrave
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