Momentum checked

For 13 intoxicating minutes on Saturday evening, Chelsea appeared to have finally escaped from the cage in which they have been living in the Premier League: tenth place. Yet it is there Graham Potter’s side remain. Ellis Simms saw to that.

The Everton forward’s 89th-minute equaliser ensured Chelsea remain ensconced in Premier League purgatory. It shouldn’t be like that, of course, if only because Chelsea were good for prolonged spells against Everton. Possession was moved intelligently - largely thanks to always impressive Enzo Fernandez - across the pitch. Movement in the final third was sharp. Chances were created.

It wasn’t until Joao Felix guided a low drive into the far corner in the 52nd minute that one was taken. No Chelsea supporter will be surprised by that; their side have made not scoring goals an art form over the past three seasons.

READ MORE: Every word Graham Potter said on Everton draw, Chelsea frustration, Fofana, Felix, Havertz, more

Abdoulaye Doucoure's equaliser from an Everton corner was cheap, but Chelsea reacted to restore their lead. That in itself is progress; too often this season Potter’s side have not dealt with adversity. Reece James was felled and then protected by an unlikely bodyguard in Fernandez as Seamus Coleman came to berate the academy graduate.

It was then the turn of Felix as he shoved Coleman away as the Everton full-back attempted to unsettle Kai Havertz, who would take and convert the spot-kick with minimal fuss.

That should have been game over for Everton. Simms ensured it wasn’t to the frustration of Potter. “You have to credit Everton, they do what they do well," the Chelsea head coach said. "They use their physicality, they use the set-pieces, they ask you questions. For most of the game we controlled fairly well, as much as you can at his level.

"But ultimately the first goal is really disappointing as it’s from a set-piece; we spoke about that before the game. The second goal we’ve not attacked well enough and then exposed a big space to defend and haven’t done it well enough. These are the little small things.

"When you look at how much we put into the game and how much we tried to attack, to be cheap with the goals we conceded was frustrating.”

A familiar problem

There has been - and due to the international break, will continue to be - much discussion about the late goal Chelsea conceded. Could Kalidou Koulibaly have done better to stop Simms from moving into the penalty area? Absolutely. And could Kepa Arrizabalaga have done better with the shot on goal? It's difficult to argue otherwise.

Much debate has also taken place about Potter's substitutions and whether they ceded the advantage to the visitors, who are battling relegation. The Chelsea head coach did insist there was no conscious decision to sit back after taking the lead at Stamford Bridge.

“No, it wasn’t conscious," he explained. "Everton used their strengths well. They’ve got physicality and used Doucourse and (Andre) Onana to win long balls, second balls, throw-ins, set-pieces, and to create danger. Teams have always done that well under Sean (Dyche).

"It’s not easy to control it as well as you’d like. We lost a little bit of control for a short period of time and when we did, we conceded. That’s the frustrating bit.”

There remains the perception that Chelsea have become a soft touch under Potter; that they have dropped 13 points from winning positions this term does little to alter that. Only six Premier League sides have collected fewer after going ahead in games, and those are battling to stay in the division.

That is something Potter must change, be it through altering the mentality of his squad or by being shrewder with his tactical choices in matches.

Another injury concern

It’s not taken long for Wesley Fofana to establish himself as a key figure in the Chelsea defence after returning from injury. The 22-year-old has impressed on the right of the back three and earlier this week earned a first call-up to the France national team.

Whether Fofana will be fit enough to join up with his international colleagues remains to be seen. The centre-back was brought off in the latter stages of yesterday’s draw and had ice strapped to his upper right leg.

He was able to move fairly freely as he shook hands with teammates and opponents, but Potter wasn’t able to confirm after the game the extent of the injury suffered by Fofana, who joined Chelsea last summer in a deal worth £70million from Leicester City.

The Blues head coach told “I’m not sure yet. He was fatiguing at the end. He went down and thought it was cramp; let’s hope it is. We haven’t assessed it yet fully”


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2023-03-19T06:13:05Z dg43tfdfdgfd