Why Defeat at Everton Actually Strengthens Chelsea's EPL Title Credentials

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Why Defeat at Everton Actually Strengthens Chelsea's EPL Title Credentials
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

On most days, Chelsea would have left Goodison Park on Saturday with three points safely in the bag—such has been their dominance against Everton.

Instead, the failure of Jose Mourinho's team to convert a glut of chances means his unbeaten record upon returning to Stamford Bridge has already been ended, with Roberto Martinez recording his first win as Toffees boss as the game finished 1-0.

Mourinho is a man who prides himself on records, on setting examples and outlining his own worth to a club. So he'll be disappointed with suffering his first defeat just four games into the Premier League season.

More so, he will be disappointed in his players as Samuel Eto'o should have been celebrating a debut goal for the Blues while others were also guilty of not living up to their considerable reputations.

Time and again Chelsea's build-up play against the Toffees looked impressive, but when it came to providing that crucial killer blow, they were found wanting.

Eto'o missed an open goal when Gareth Barry desperately blocked his shot in the first half after Tim Howard had fluffed his own lines moments earlier, passing the ball to Andre Schurrle in the penalty box. The German could have shot it himself, but squared for Eto'o instead, who looked set to score only for Barry to deny him.

The likes of Juan Mata and Eden Hazard lacked their normal quality with their final ball, while Branislav Ivanovic and Ashley Cole have enjoyed far more productive days on each flank.

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

If we look at this game in isolation, Chelsea fans—and their manager, maybe—could be forgiven for hitting the panic button. But we shouldn't. It's about the bigger picture.

Any defeat is hard to swallow, especially when you come with the reputations so many of Chelsea's stars carry around with them and leave the pitch knowing you were the better team.

What we saw at Goodison Park on Saturday, however, should breed confidence. And when he analyzes the video of this performance, Mourinho will no doubt feel it.

There were countless things Chelsea could have done better—notably their transition from defensive positions to attack—but in terms of their desire and team spirit, the Blues couldn't be faulted.

OK, so desire and team spirit do not win titles, yet they go a long way in helping a team get there. They're qualities that, mixed with the talent Mourinho has at his disposal, separate the great teams from the also-rans.

With a hostile crowd and pumped-up opposition, Chelsea stood firm in the face of the challenge Martinez's men threw at them. They went a goal behind on the stroke of half time, but should have been out of sight long before then.

They remained unperturbed, focused on the belief they could claw their way back into the game to take at least a point. Wave after wave of attack came Everton's way, and while every clearance that followed would have chipped away at the confidence of most teams, Chelsea maintained their intensity.

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Credit must be given to the Toffees, of course. Their victory was their first of the season, but it was also their third consecutive clean sheet, extending their record to the best part of five hours without conceding in the league.

It's clear without David Moyes they will continue to play their part in the Premier League this term, and we shouldn't let a defeat convince us Chelsea will not be doing the same in the title race.

As Mourinho's side comes together, occasions like what we saw this weekend will always resurface—it's part of the journey to greatness, after all.

Chelsea have enough quality to suggest these will remain rare, however, and for that, they must take solace, regroup and put things right, starting with Basel in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here:

@garryhayes

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