Chelsea's Top 4 Hopes Take Major Blow with 2-0 Premier League Loss to Everton

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistMarch 17, 2019

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MARCH 17:  Ngolo Kante of Chelsea is tackled by Bernard of Everton during the Premier League match between Everton FC and Chelsea FC at Goodison Park on March 17, 2019 in Liverpool, United Kingdom. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Chelsea's hopes of finishing among the Premier League's top four were hurt after they lost 2-0 to Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday.  

Richarlison scored in back-to-back league games for the first time since December as he headed in the opener. Gylfi Sigurdsson converted from the spot after Marcos Alonso fouled Richarlison in the box, giving the Toffees their second win in four league games to move up to 11th.

Maurizio Sarri's side remain sixth in the standings and one point behind Manchester United, who were knocked out of the FA Cup quarter-finals following a 2-1 defeat at Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday.


Chelsea Lack Ruthlessness, Focus Under Sarri

Just three days after a mostly second-string Chelsea team demolished Dynamo Kiev 5-0 in the UEFA Europa League, Sarri's side made a tame return to domestic action on Merseyside.

The full-time result will have been particularly difficult for the Italian to swallow considering just how one-sided the first half was, when Eden Hazard hit the woodwork and Gonzalo Higuain should have scored.

ESPN FC's Liam Twomey described the titled balance of power after 45 minutes:

Liam Twomey @liam_twomey

HT Everton 0-0 Chelsea. An excellent half from Sarri's men but no goals to show for their dominance. Plenty of frustration at Goodison #efc #cfc

There was a noticeable turning point not long before the interval, however, when Marco Silva's men appeared to wake from their bout of intimidation and began posing a threat of their own. The hosts swiftly went from paying their respects to being the team demanding respect themselves.

Chelsea should have been up by two or three at the break; instead, they were punished and conceded the opener from Everton's first true challenge on Kepa Arrizabalaga's goal, via NBC Sports (U.S. only):

NBC Sports Soccer @NBCSportsSoccer

GOAL Everton! Richarlison heads it in! https://t.co/oV9cWrqIbm

Richarlison scored against Newcastle United in his previous outing and showed what it meant to bag the breakthrough, via Soccer AM (UK only):

Soccer AM @SoccerAM

Richarlison puts Everton 1-0 up against Chelsea! 😱😱😱 https://t.co/exQASUTkta

Wolverhampton Wanderers were unlucky not to beat Chelsea 1-0 last Sunday, and this was yet another example of how teams have learnt they can stand up to Sarri's Blues, who aren't as imperious as their predecessors.

Higuain was too easily crowded out by Everton's defenders, while N'Golo Kanteendeavoured to engineer chances in his more advanced role but was mostly pacified. Jorginho looked to pull the strings from deep, but too often Chelsea looked too easy to upset and susceptible to the counter.

There's also a question as to whether the right personnel decisions were made for Sarri's XI. Author Mark Worrall suggested substitute Olivier Giroud deserved to start following his hat-trick against Dynamo on Thursday:

Mark Worrall @gate17marco

Sarri writing a letter of apology to Olivier Giroud for leaving him on the bench after he scored a hattrick on Thursday night.

Kante, Antonio Rudiger and Marcos Alonso were the only three outfielders to keep their places in Sarri's XI after Thursday, meaning tiredness shouldn't have been a major concern for the squad.

The west Londoners have now lost seven times this season—Tottenham Hotspur (nine) are the only team in the top six to have lost more—and didn't show enough versatility to outsmart Everton on this occasion.

Broadcaster Deji Faremi said Chelsea won't progress as they wish to while Sarri is in charge:

Deji Faremi @deejayfaremi

Sarri isn't maximising the strength of his players/team IMO. Regardless of what happens this season - except Chelsea can spend big to 'buy him a team' - I think they should let him go. I thought so 2 months ago, I still do now.

Goal's Nizaar Kinsella also hinted at compromises in Sarri's methods that suggest the manager could even be beginning to doubt himself:

Nizaar Kinsella @NizaarKinsella

Maurizio Sarri going back to his 4-2-3-1 formation once again. Twice in two league games, after never switching up before that in his whole time in charge. Hudson-Odoi on #CFC #EVECHE

Rudiger said after the 4-0 loss to Bournemouth in February that Chelsea should have been ashamed of that display. After another defeat to an opponent in the bottom half of the table, it seems the club still haven't developed the cutthroat edge needed to move back into the Premier League's upper echelon.

It was anticipated the arrival of elite finisher Higuain would solve much of Chelsea's woes in attack, but their inability to find other routes to goal other than their preferred option will limit scope in the long term.


What's Next?

The Premier League now pauses for the international break, with Everton next travelling to West Ham United on Saturday, March 30 and Chelsea set to face Cardiff City in Wales on Sunday, March 31.


This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

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