Was fatigue a factor?
Everton faced a third tough away game in seven games so it was inevitable after the defeat that there would be talk of tiredness and fatigue. A tough draw at the Etihad followed by a game in Croatia and then a trip to the champions; it’s a punishing schedule, but did it play a part in the defeat?
Ronald Koeman did, after all, make five changes to freshen up his line up for Sunday’s game at Stamford Bridge. This season is also only a month old and we are talking about highly tuned athletes. Is it really a valid excuse?
The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle.
When talking about elite sport it only takes a tiny dip in performance levels - even one or two percent - to have a negative impact on the result. And after such a punishing week I’m sure there was a slight drop off from some of the Everton players and that was enough for Chelsea to take advantage. However, that wasn’t the main reason for the defeat – they just didn’t play well.
When £140m isn’t enough
Everton have spent heavily this summer to revitalise the squad and launch a sustained challenge for the top four. Games like this were supposed to be a decent yardstick by which to measure their progress. Sadly this match was no different to any of the Toffees’ defeats at Stamford Bridge over the years.
From the kick-off Chelsea were always in control and it quickly became apparent they would only need to score one goal to win the game. Everton’s attack lacked width and pace, with Chelsea easily closing down any avenues the visitors tried to pursue through the middle.
As a result the final few days of the transfer window have suddenly become a lot more significant for Ronald Koeman. Despite the deals done so far there remains some glaring holes in the team.
A left-sided defender, target man and pacy forward need to be on the Dutchman’s shopping list this week - urgently.
Is a change in attitude needed?
A lot of frustrated supporters berated Koeman after the game for being too negative in his approach. After years of being plucky underdogs under David Moyes (knife to a gunfight anyone?) the fans hoped the fresh investment and new-look team would also bring with it a change in attitude.
Unfortunately Sunday’s game followed a similar pattern to what we have endured for years, even if the personnel were different.
So should Koeman have opened up more? Or would being too expansive pose too much of a risk given Chelsea’s attacking threat?
The same accusation was levelled at the Dutchman on Monday when the team looked to be hanging on and bunkering down at Man City despite having one more player during the second half.
On this occasion I feel there were enough mitigating factors to spare him from too much criticism – the number of players missing and the hectic schedule being two. Plus when put in perspective this was our first defeat of the season away at the champions, it’s hardly disastrous.
However, I understand where the supporters are coming from.
Everton’s mind-set when heading to venues such as Stamford Bridge and Anfield has been far too negative over the past decade. The burden of defeats gone by seems to have sapped them of any belief and they look half beaten before the game even kicks off.
While one of Koeman’s main tasks this summer has been to revitalise the playing squad, he also needs to instil a winning, ruthless attitude when travelling to the division’s leading sides. Something that, on this evidence, may well be easier said than done.