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Joao Felix is already Chelsea’s MVP but familiar failings are holding Graham Potter’s team back

Chelsea 2-2 Everton (Felix 52′, Havertz 76′ | Doucoure 69′, Simms 89′)

STAMFORD BRIDGE — If soccer groups had been awarded factors based mostly on the class of their soccer Chelsea would occupy a a lot larger place than 10th within the Premier League.

You are reading: Joao Felix is already Chelsea’s MVP but familiar failings are holding Graham Potter’s team back

Graham Potter’s facet performed some chic stuff towards Everton on Saturday. Mateo Kovacic used the skin of his proper boot to wriggle out of tight spots, Enzo Fernandez stretched the play with correct probing passes, Reece James and Ben Chilwell galloped on the wings, and Joao Felix and Kai Havertz had touches that wouldn’t have appeared misplaced on Soccer AM talent faculty.

And but Chelsea by no means really seemed that they’d rating sufficient objectives to win the sport. The place have we heard that earlier than?

The primary half fell right into a predictable sample with Chelsea hoarding the ball and Everton comfortable to allow them to have it. Within the opening 10 minutes, the hosts had 87 per cent possession and their guests had been sat so deep that it appeared as if their midfield and defence had moulded into one, like a meaty slab of luminous pink Play-Doh. Demarai Grey lower a forlorn determine up entrance towards three gigantic centre-backs.

However for all their management, Chelsea didn’t create an terrible lot from open play. Kovacic skewed a volley simply large from a nook that had been partially cleared and Havertz nodded over from a Chilwell set-piece, however in any other case, Chelsea had been restricted to low share efforts that had been both blocked with fervour or else trickled straight into Jordan Pickford’s gloves. Everton had solely two touches in Chelsea’s field within the opening interval – within the forty first and forty second minutes – however the sides went in degree on the break.

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This lack of penetration clearly isn’t a brand new difficulty for Chelsea or certainly their supervisor. Manchester Metropolis are the one group within the Premier League to have accomplished extra passes than Chelsea, however whereas they rank second for passes into the penalty space, the Blues are eighth for that metric. Chelsea are in the identical place for probabilities created, which means that whereas Potter’s facet are extraordinarily adept at retaining the ball, they’re far much less efficient at funnelling it into goalscoring positions.

By the tip of the sport, Chelsea had out-shot Everton by 20-12 and accomplished virtually 3 times as many passes, however the non-penalty xG scoreline was nearly the identical: Chelsea 1.59-1.40 Everton. There is no such thing as a scarcity of creativity of their group, particularly with Chilwell and James again on the flanks, however Chelsea lack the ruthlessness to kill opponents off when they’re in management. Everton hung in and acquired their reward.

That was additionally a problem that Potter confronted at Brighton, along with his facet notoriously wasteful in entrance of aim. It’s attention-grabbing that the Seagulls have sharpened their goalscoring instincts underneath Potter’s successor Roberto De Zerbi: solely Arsenal and Manchester Metropolis have outscored Brighton because the Italian took cost. In Potter’s 21 league video games accountable for Chelsea, in the meantime, his group have scored simply 21 occasions, solely managing two or extra in a sport twice.

Up till the 89th minute, it didn’t look as if it could matter. A sensible end from Felix and a assured penalty from Havertz both facet of a scrappy Abdoulaye Doucoure equaliser had Chelsea within the lead getting into the ultimate levels. However to their credit score, Everton stored going and acquired the equaliser that their endeavour warranted, Ellis Simms rushing previous Kalidou Koulibaly earlier than squeezing a shot underneath Kepa Arrizabalaga to attain his first Premier League aim.

Maybe if Potter had entry to a time machine he would use it to move himself again to the eightieth minute and resolve to not make the primary of three modifications that had a destabilising impact on his facet. The withdrawal of Felix, the sport’s excellent participant, was an admission that Chelsea had been proud of their lot. It might have been helpful to have him on the pitch for the six minutes that adopted Simms’ equaliser.

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Some considered Chelsea’s £10m mortgage acquisition of the Portuguese ahead on a six-month mortgage with out an choice to purchase on the finish of it as symptomatic of each Todd Boehly’s largesse and naivety within the switch market. But when Felix decides to take up everlasting residence in west London in the summertime, it’d show to be the most effective funding the American has made to this point.

This was solely Felix’s ninth look for the membership and but he’s already turning into Potter’s most influential attacker. That’s no imply feat for a 23-year-old newcomer to English soccer who has needed to delve deep into his reminiscence reserves to recollect how one can specific himself on a soccer pitch once more after years of enjoying Simeone-ball.

Essentially the most noticeable side of Felix’s play is his ingenuity and processing velocity in tight areas; he creates house when there’s non with a shake of the hips or a drop of the shoulder. Halfway by means of the primary half, he drew gasps of enjoyment after pirouetting round James Tarkowski with a delicate outside-of-the-boot flick, quickly morphing into Dennis Bergkamp at St James’ Park. There was one other second when he slid in to maintain the ball from rolling out of play and managed to maintain a transfer going whereas mendacity on the ground. He’s a fan’s favorite already.

Havertz’s aim, his third in successive matches, may also give him a raise, though his act of hubris in direction of Pickford after beating him from the spot finally got here again to hang-out him. Poking enjoyable at an opponent is a dangerous enterprise, notably when your group is vulnerable to concede late equalisers.

The outcome leaves Chelsea 11 factors off fourth place and 4 again from the Europa League spots with 11 video games remaining. Solely as soon as within the final 25 seasons have Chelsea had a season out of European competitors – in 2016-17 after they received the Premier League – however possibly that will be useful subsequent season. If Chelsea can discover a manner so as to add penetration to their possession on the coaching pitch, a surge up the desk subsequent season certainly awaits.


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