Frank Lampard’s brace ensured Chelsea’s impressive run of form under new manager Rafa Benitez continued with victory over Everton at Goodison Park.
The England midfielder struck in each half to give the Londoners a crucial victory in Sunday’s Premier League tie.
David Moyes’s men had made a barnstorming start, taking the lead through Steven Pienaar’s strike after barely a minute. However they failed to capitalise on their earlier momentum, and with Juan Mata in imperious form Chelsea clawed their way back into the tie.
Here, The FA’s Peter Glynn looks at Rafa Benitez’s growing impact at Chelsea
Amidst the din of supporter discontent, Chelsea’s interim manager Rafa Benitez has quietly gone about his work refining an undoubtedly talented group of players.
And with more results such as this one, a win which recorded a fourth successive victory, his presence on Chelsea’s touchline may yet be soothed by the sound of silence.
In defence of his predecessor, Roberto Di Matteo did little wrong. However, since Benitez’s arrival there have been a number of subtle tactical changes and reinvigoration of key individuals that point to the former Liverpool manager’s steadying influence.
Last January the Chelsea interim manager outlined his playing philosophy to The Boot Room, The FA Licensed Coaches’ Club magazine, explaining: “[his team] always try to be organised and to keep balanced. If you are good in defence, people say you are ‘defensive’. No, that means you keep the balance. We always try to attack and we always try to score goals.”
David Luiz’s evolvement from central-defender to the base of Chelsea’s midfield is one of the ways in which Benitez’s has brought a new order.
For all his supposed erratic play, the Brazilian has the technical ability and physical prowess to provide both a source for attacking moves and a defensive screen.
Luiz’s influence in Benitez’s Chelsea is so much that a key part of Everton’s tactical plan focused on negating his impact from a deep-lying position. Closely attended to by the excellent Pienaar, the ensuring duel was a fascinating sub-plot to an absorbing tactical contest.
Everton manager David Moyes emerged from the opening period with much credit. Aware of the visitors’ taste for building attacking moves from the back, the Scot unfurled a defensive scheme which ensured that for large parts of the first period the game was played on Everton’s terms.
With the Toffees’ wide attackers Victor Anichebe and Steven Naismith deployed high up the pitch, Chelsea’s favoured outlet through their full-backs was blocked.
And with Pienaar seeing to Luiz and Leon Osman and Thomas Hitzlsperger charged with following Frank Lampard and Juan Mata, Chelsea were forced to put the ball at risk playing more direct balls for the slippery runs of Fernando Torres, Eden Hazard and Ramires. It played into the hands of the hosts.
The first half an hour of this tie was a tribute to all that is good about Moyes’s side. From the outset Everton went for Chelsea’s throat.
Played at a frenetic tempo, the home side followed a strict brief: pressing high up the pitch, hunting for possession in packs and competing for second-balls.
Having plundered possession quickly the home side swarmed forward around the creative heartbeat of Pienaar, ably assisted by Leighton Baines. It was a perfect plan and Moyes’ side were ahead after barely a minute.
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Pienaar, who was the game's most influential player for much of the contest, played a cute pass for the overlapping run of Phil Jagielka.
The England defender, deployed here as a right-back produced an accurate back-post cross for Anichebe whose header rebounded off Petr Cech’s post into the path of Pienaar. The South African gratefully finished the move he started.
With Goodison Park rocking and the momentum in their favour Everton continued to pile forward. Cheslea were shell-shocked and Moyes will reflect on this period and rue his side’s inability to inflict further damage.
It wasn’t for the want of trying. Minutes after their opener, Nikica Jelavic hit the outside of the post with a stinging free-kick.
Later in the half he would see a low strike across goal pushed away by Cech. Sandwiched between this personal duel, Osman saw another goal-bound effort repelled by the Czech stopper.
Momentum plays a significant part in the outcome of results and the longer the tie remained marked with only a single goal, the more it felt Chelsea would begin to contribute from an attacking perspective. As the game wore on Everton couldn’t maintain their tempo.
Benitez will have known that if they weathered the early onslaught, their embarrassment of attacking riches would be afforded the opportunity to provide a threat on the break. So it proved.
Just after the half an hour mark, Chelsea’s attacking protagonist Mata provided his first flash of sorcery. The Spaniard, whose short shuffle sees him skip effortlessly past close markers, drifted into Everton’s penalty area before playing in Cesar Azpilicueta who flashed a cross invitingly across Howard’s six yard box.
If it wasn’t for the smallest of interventions from Pienaar, Cole would have equalised at the back post.
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There was both nonchalance and panache in the way Mata fashioned the chance. As bodies darted around him in the box, the Spain midfielder momentarily stood and pirouetted on the ball before threading a pass. It was a moment of calm amidst the madness, a sign of a conductor in charge of his orchestra.
Mata is part of a complementary blend of attacking talent. The Spaniard provides the design and Ramirez much of the thrust and incision.
However, much of the pair’s scheming is facilitated by the lone-forward play of a vastly improved Fernando Torres. Reunited with his former mentor the once maligned striker played a significant, if not glittering, role in this victory.
Playing on the shoulder of Everton’s backline, Torres provides a constant threat in behind defenders. His runs provide an out-ball for the passing of Lampard and Luiz who build much of Chelsea’s play from the base of midfield.
However, it was in his one-touch hold-up play for which Torres stood out. The former Liverpool forward demonstrated a collection of back-heels and one-touch lay-offs which allowed Chelsea’s midfield to swarm forward on numerous occasions.
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Lampard, like Torres is another to show signs of new life under Benitez, and the rejuvenated pair played a part in Chelsea’s equaliser.
The Spaniard collected possession on Everton’s right before finding Ramires whose cross found Lampard.
The England midfielder’s header was expertly placed out of the reach of Tim Howard in the Everton goal. It was further evidence of the 34-year-old's ability to ghost into space in opponent’s territory.
Lampard’s second proved to be decisive in a tumultuous encounter. Mata was once again the schemer-in-chief, opening up the hosts with a lofted pass that found the run of Hazard.
The Belgian’s header was hooked away by Jagielka only for Mata to play his second-part in the scene unleashing a shot from the edge of the box. When the ball was repelled by Howard, it seemed the ball could only fall to one man inside the box and Lampard duly hooked home.
At this rate Benitez will not only be silencing the sound of boos, but he might well be losing the interim label which prefixes his job title.
Advice for grassroots coaches:
- Pressing in groups: young players should learn to retrieve possession working with others, ensuring they don’t defend alone especially when defending from the front.
- Chelsea were quick and efficient on the changeover of possession playing swiftly on the counter attack. Young players should be encouraged to recognise opportune moments for counter-attacking play and exploiting the opposition who may be short on defensive numbers.
- Fernando Torres demonstrated the value of having a target man who can bring other players into the game. Coaches should devise practices in which forward players must play with their backs to goal developing their hold-up play.
Peter Glynn is the Editorial Manager at St. George's Park and editor of The Boot Room, The FA's Coaching Magazine. Peter is a journalist and has been with The Football Association for five years and holds the UEFA B Licence and The FA Youth Awards 1 and 2.
The Future Game Tactics Column takes a weekly look at the evolution of the modern game, linking to practices from The FA's Future Game philosophy and providing advice and tips for grassroots coaches.
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