Chelsea have had an impressive start to the new 2014-15 Premier League season, taking two wins from two and scoring five goals along the way.
Key to their good start has been two summer signings: Cesc Fabregas, who has dictated games from midfield and claimed three assists for himself already, and forward Diego Costa, who has netted a goal in each match of his English league career.
This weekend, Chelsea play Everton away from home and, with Costa potentially missing the match through injury—as per the Express' James Orr—Didier Drogba should be in line to take up the Spaniard's starting role as Jose Mourinho's No 9.
Drogba isn't the player of old and will play as striker in a different way to Costa, but Chelsea have the players to make the most of the Ivorian's strengths and should still present a significant final-third threat on Merseyside.
Chelsea have plenty of wide forwards who they look to get in on the act in attacking play, including of course Eden Hazard, their key wildcard who can break a defensive line by himself at times. Mohamed Salah, Willian and Andre Schurrle are the others who tend to start from wide front positions.
Out of the three, Schurrle should be selected to start from the right side against Everton; not just for his off-the-ball work rate and his pace, but because he offers something the others do not do as well naturally: making direct runs in behind the centre-forward.
Being a natural "forward" rather than a creative or wide midfielder, Schurrle's natural instinct is to provide through-pass opportunities for his midfield team-mates. His acceleration and consistency in making these runs could be key to exploiting gaps between Everton's back line, while he is also already off the mark with scoring this season.
While those traits are pleasing for Chelsea in any normal match, with Drogba leading the line it becomes even more important.
The Ivorian uses his strength and movement to drop off defenders and receive the ball, either to feet or chest, creating gaps either between himself and the centre-backs or, if they follow him out of the attacking line, behind the defence.
It is these latter gaps which Schurrle's infield darts will make the most of, rather than the technical excellence and consistency of Willian, who tends to stay deeper and affect play on the ball rather than by stretching the field off it.
Set Piece Delivery
Drogba isn't merely going to be a battering ram for the Blues, but there's no point hiding the fact that he is a massive threat from set pieces.
Free-kicks from the channels, corners and even long goal kicks will all seek to use Drogba's power and aerial ability to best Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka, the likely defensive duo for Everton, to either aim directly for goal or else flick the ball on for others.
Although Everton have conceded twice in each of their two games this season, they generally have a decent defensive record and, at Goodison Park, it is not unthinkable that Chelsea won't create a plethora of chances against them. Taking advantage of set pieces could be the difference between a point and three, or one and none.
Subtle Midfield Change
If Drogba doesn't do the business up front, or perhaps cannot last the entire 90 minutes effectively, Chelsea will have to make a change. It could be Schurrle as a No. 9, or Fernando Torres could appear off the bench if he's not a Milan player, as per the BBC, by then...but a little change in midfield could be more effective than either.
Cesc Fabregas has been deployed deeper, as one of the midfield pivots alongside Nemanja Matic, but for both club and country was used far more offensively last term.
Pushing him into the No. 10 role and asking him to support and attack beyond the striker in the latter stages of the game is far from unthinkable, especially given Chelsea's central midfield options, and his runs from the second line can be game-breakers when combined with intelligent through passes and quick exchanges of possession.
Jose Mourinho's squad is stacked to the brim with technical, powerful and expensive players. One main striker being out injured cannot be allowed to be the difference between consistently winning and consistently dropping points; it is all about manipulating his squad to ensure the XI which take the field can, one way or another, get the job done.
Chelsea have the tools to beat an Everton side who haven't hit top gear yet; now Mourinho has to arrange his players to go out and do so.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!