Three talking points as Everton held Chelsea to a goalless draw
Everton produced a valiant rearguard performance to blunt Chelsea’s attacking threat and earn a creditable 0-0 draw at Goodison Park. The Blues, who had won their previous two Premier League games, dominated the lunchtime kick-off but had to settle for a share of the spoils.
Despite creating succession of chances, they could not find a way past Toffees goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, who enhanced his England prospects. Everton remain unbeaten under new boss Sam Allardyce and in ninth position, while Chelsea stay third. Here are three talking points…
Wasteful Chelsea lacking a cutting edge
With Alvaro Morata out sidelined through suspension, Antonio Conte once again resisted the temptation to start his back-up striker Michy Batshuayi, who had made a rare appearance against Bournemouth in the midweek Carabao Cup clash. Instead, the Chelsea manager deployed a front three of Eden Hazard, Pedro and Willian.
But despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession and territory, the visitors lacked a cutting edge in front of goal. With nine goals to his name, Morata is the club’s leading scorer in the Premier League and he has done an admirable job of filling the void left by Diego Costa.
Next on the list is Eden Hazard with five goals – and therein lies the Blues’ problems. They are the lowest scorers of the top six in the table and with Conte so reluctant to blood Batshuayi, there are few alternatives. A striker capable of rivalling Morata is surely top of the Italian’s January wish list.
Everton are solid but unspectacular under Allardyce
The appointment of Allardyce was greeted with scepticism, but it has certainly had the desired effect on the blue half of Merseyside. With 11 points from five outings, the former England boss has taken Everton from the lower reaches of the Premier League to the safety of the top half.
Having stabilised the team, which nothing short of a rabble under his predecessor Ronald Koeman, Allardyce’s next task is to make them more expansive, particularly at home. Chelsea were always going to prove to be tough opponents, but the supporters will feel disappointed not to have seen their side register a single shot on target.
In mitigation, Everton were without the services of Wayne Rooney through illness and they missed his intelligence on the ball, as well as his goalscoring pedigree. Like Conte, Allardyce will also be on the lookout for a goalscorer in the transfer window to ease the burden on Rooney and youngster Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Michael Keane is magnificent on his return
It has not been the smoothest transition since joining the club in the summer, but Michael Keane’s display against Chelsea demonstrated why the club parted with £30 million to sign him from Burnley. Recalled by Allardyce in place of Ashley Williams, the England international partnered veteran Phil Jagielka in central defence.
Both were magnificent as they withstood a sustained onslaught from the reigning Premier League champions, but it was Keane who deserves special praise due to his shortage of game-time. His positional sense and ability to read the play meant he was always on hand to make vital interventions when the visitors threatened to break the deadlock.
Composed on the ball, Keane as a reliable head when the pressure was on. It didn’t go to plan for him under Koeman, but perhaps Allardyce is just the man to unlock his vast potential.
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