Things Need to Get Better for Chelsea


Chelsea continued their strong season start on Saturday, holding off a dangerous Everton side to win, 6-3. Diego Costa bagged his third and fourth goals, in three Premier League appearances, and Branislav Ivanovic kept his hot form, scoring Chelsea’s second, in the third minute.

More from Chelsea

Even though the win was a strong statement to Manchester City (who lost to Stoke 1-0), Arsenal (who drew 2 all with Leicester), and Liverpool (who beat Tottenham in their own convincing way, 3-0), the game wasn’t all positives. The Blues defense, which was by far the best in the league last season, looked suspect, and the team as a whole, for a short period, looked like they couldn’t hold onto the lead they had fought for.

Diego Costa opened the scoring, just 35 seconds in, and Branislav Ivanovic doubled Chelsea’s lead just minutes later, although he did look offside. Kevin Mirallas’ beautiful header pulled Everton a goal back just before halftime. Eden Hazard made a quick run past James McCarthy, to the goal line, in the 67th minute, and his cross took a touch off Seamus Coleman and wiggled past Tim Howard into the back of the net. The two sides then traded goals for 11 minutes, with Everton pulling goals back through Steven Naismith and Samuel Eto’o, only to have Chelsea go back up two goals each time, through Nemanja Matic and Ramires. Finally, Diego Costa killed the game in stoppage time, getting his second.

Roberto Martinez (left) and Jose Mourinho (right) were both unhappy with their teams performances. Everton have already conceded 10 goals, and have just two points from three games. Chelsea, on the other hand, were defensively suspect, something that never makes Jose Mourinho happy.

Jose Mourinho wasn’t completely happy though; he said that the defensive errors were frustrating, especially in light of the hour and a half training session on Wednesday, completely devoted to defending set pieces and corners. He was right; Everton’s first two goals could both have been stopped if not for some slack defending. Mirallas was left unmarked to run into open space, and the back line didn’t close down on the ball fast enough to stop his header.

Steven Naismith’s goal was even worse. Branislav Ivanovic played far too narrow, allowing acres of room on the right flank. Naismith exploited this, picking up Allen McGeady’s pass and running around the back line to score. The third goal was the result of a beautiful free kick from Leighton Baines, and an even more beautiful header from Eto’o. There was little that Chelsea could have done; Eto’o made the most of just a foot or two’s worth of space from his marker, again Ivanovic.

The Bottom Line:

1.) The Defense needs to Improve:

This sounds really weird; last season it was Chelsea’s defense, not their offense, that was the bedrock of the team. But, in each of the first three games, the Blues back line has looked vulnerable. Leicester and Everton exploited Ivanovic’s attacking mindset, and narrowness, and both had great chances throughout the game; even Burnley looked threatening at times. The attack bailed the defense out in each case, and lead the team to 9 points from as many possible. But if Chelsea want to sustain a title threat, the defense needs to get more solid. There is only one way to do this: drop Ivanovic.

Even though the Serbian has been one of Chelsea’s best players, he is a defensive liability. He is consistently to far into the center of the field, leaving open space on the flank. Willian tracked back against Everton, covering for Ivanovic, but when Andre Schurrle started against Leicester and Burnley, the right was wide open. Mourinho needs to move Cesar Azpilicueta to right back, and give new signing Filipe Luis his debut, at left back. Even though some attacking potential will be lost, Costa, Fabergas and Hazard will more than make up for it, and the team will return to having a solid foundation at the back.

Steven Naismith’s goal demonstrated how poor Chelsea’s defense was on Saturday. At times too narrow, at others too ragged, the once best back line needs to pull it together, or risk costing Chelsea the title.

2.) The Attack is Just Fine:

Again, last season the attack was what held Chelsea back. Strikers Fernando Torres, Demba Ba and Eto’o combined to score just 19 goals; City’s top three, Sergio Aguero, Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko scored 42, while Liverpool’s “SAS” (Sturridge and Suarez), the two top scorers in the league, scored 52. This season is different, however. Diego Costa has bagged 4 goals, in 3 games, and lead the league. When Costa scored his first against Everton, it was his third goal in as many shots on target. Ivanovic has scored, two, and four other players have scored. Chelsea leads the league in scoring, with 11 goals, and in goal differential, with +7 GD. The defense may need to improve, but if the offense gets any better, than it won’t matter; Chelsea will just win shoot outs with teams.

Diego Costa once again led Chelsea’s line, and once again scored, this time bagging a brace. He is the scorer that Chelsea so badly needed, but couldn’t find, last season.

3.) Chelsea Held Out:

The Blues once again held out against strong attacks from the opposition. Chelsea has been up on all three of their opponents so far, and all three have had dangerous spells. But each time, Chelsea has held strong, and even gone and scored another goal. This shows that Chelsea doesn’t just have to sit back, and wait for good counter attacking opportunities, like they did last season; they can be pro-active, and score a few, before falling back.