Chelsea are growing more accomplished with every outing. Thomas Tuchel has transformed their mentality with and without the ball and his latest tactical tweak in attack worked perfectly. Bringing Kai Havertz in as a false nine was a masterstroke. The German, making his first start since 27 January, had his best game in a blue shirt and was involved in both goals as Chelsea cruised to a commanding win in the race to finish in the top four, dismissing passive Everton with ease.
Although a point separated the sides at kick-off, the gulf in class was enormous. The satisfaction for Tuchel, who is yet to taste defeat in his first 11 games, was immense. Chelsea’s manager is not afraid to experiment and although there were a few raised eyebrows when he suggested Havertz could be an option as a central striker last week, the ploy worked against Everton, whose defenders were befuddled by the 21-year-old’s craft, movement and easy way of finding space in dangerous positions.
It was a fine display from Havertz, who has struggled since his £62m move from Bayer Leverkusen last year, and another sign of Tuchel’s intelligence. This is a manager operating at a high level. Tuchel has been ticking off the wins in recent weeks, beating Liverpool and Atlético Madrid before this resounding victory and the difference in Chelsea’s defending since Frank Lampard’s departure in January is remarkable.
They have conceded twice since firing Lampard and their commitment to the clean sheet was underlined by a few thumping challenges from Reece James when Everton were pressing during the closing stages, much to the approval of the home bench.
Chelsea, who look increasingly ominous in fourth place, controlled the game. Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic set the tone in midfield, winning the ball and using it wisely, and Everton soon found themselves pushed back. With James Rodríguez and Abdoulaye Doucouré missing, the visitors lacked ambition and the focus on containment left Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison feeding off scraps up front.
Faced with a low block, it was a typical Chelsea performance at first: lots of possession and little incision. There were too many rushed decisions in the final third and it seemed the hosts had nobody to knit their attacks together with Mason Mount, who is suspended for Atlético’s visit to Stamford Bridge in the last 16 of the Champions League next week, given a rare rest.
Everton looked increasingly comfortable as the first half wore on. There was a sense, though, that Chelsea would eventually summon a moment of clarity.
Tuchel risked inviting criticism by moving Timo Werner to the right and opting to play without a traditional striker but Chelsea trust in the process and they took the lead when they raised the tempo in the 31st minute. It was a beautiful move, starting with Callum Hudson-Odoi finding Marcos Alonso with a gorgeous pass on the left. The wing-back finally had room and his inviting cutback reached Havertz, who timed his run well and his side-footed shot deflected off Ben Godfrey for an own goal.
The breakthrough liberated Chelsea, who were denied a second when Jordan Pickford pushed Alonso’s shot wide. The goal was a vindication for Tuchel, who wants his side to keep rotating possession while they hunt for openings. Chelsea were confident in their technical ability, playing out from the back even when they were under pressure, and they were disciplined too, offering Everton little room to create.
The pattern continued in the second half. James drilled a shot wide and Havertz had a volley disallowed for handball. Everton, still hopeful of Champions League qualification, rarely bothered Chelsea. Andreas Christensen was unflappable in defence again and Kurt Zouma was strong on the left of the back three. There was no way through for Everton, who were wasteful when a chance finally arrived, Richarlison drilling wide with only Édouard Mendy to beat.
It was a pivotal miss. Chelsea continued to probe and pulled clear when Alonso released Havertz, who rounded Pickford before being fouled by the goalkeeper. Jorginho stepped up to send Pickford the wrong way from the spot and the game was done. Although Werner wasted a late chance, it was all very polished and clinical.