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Roberto Martinez's first league win as Everton manager provided Jose Mourinho with his first defeat since returning to Chelsea for a second stint, as Steven Naismith celebrated his 27th birthday with the game's only goal at Goodison Park. Fittingly, on a day of firsts, it was the Scot's first league start of the season.
New managers and new players wrote many of the game's multiple sub-plots but it was a tradition that refuses to die at Goodison that proved Chelsea's undoing. This was a victory built on desire and a ceaseless work rate as much as it was about Martinez dispelling the notion his teams have a soft centre and porous backline. That said, with three clean sheets from four games they'll be saying Everton are the new 'old Arsenal' next.
Whilst Romelu Lukaku was not eligible to figure against his parent club, Martinez resisted the temptation to blood both of his other noticeable deadline day captures as only Gareth Barry was granted a start, in the holding role vacated by Marouane Fellaini. James McCarthy had to settle for a place on the substitutes' bench, despite the fact Steven Pienaar was unavailable through injury as Naismith was preferred in an advance right-sided position.
For Chelsea, it was all about a returning no.10 and a new no.9. A first league game since August 26 saw Mourinho finally 'free' Juan Mata to give the much sympathised with Spaniard his first Chelsea start of the season. Samuel Eto'o was given the nod ahead of Fernando Torres to lead the line. New £33million acquisition Willian was conspicuous only in his absence from a tidy-looking bench comprising Essien, Lampard, De Bruyne, Oscar, Torres, Cahill and Schwarzer.
Prior to kick-off plenty of the pre-match talk had centred on the fact no Premier League side had enjoyed as much possession as Everton so far this season, with 64 per cent testimony to an outfit that has in just three games already held up a mirror to its manager's ideals. Martinez's teams have always been pretty but successive blanks in the league against West Brom and Cardiff City respectively had surfaced a worrying trend for profligacy, which hampered much of his excellent work at Wigan. By full-time on Saturday, Everton had accrued an average of just 43.5 per cent possession but we suspect Martinez will take the points over platitudes happily enough.
Naismith's goal typified the game. When Everton were awarded a free-kick in Chelsea's half and elected to go short despite Sylvain Distin and Phil Jagielka both having both gone forward, a collective groan was audible. This is an Everton crowd still getting used to Martinez's methods as much as the players. Petr Cech's subsequent throw out to Ramires when the move broke down was as unnecessary as it was hurried, as the magnificent Barry pressured the Brazilian into conceding to Ross Barkley. With an elegant straight back that reminds of Glenn Hoddle, the 19-year-old slipped in Leon Osman, whose lofted cross to the back post was expertly nodded back across goal by Nikica Jelavic for Naismith to convert. Chelsea's culprit, not for the first time defensively, was David Luiz.
"For some reason David Luiz decides to vacant that space (in the area) and gets attracted to Ross Barkley. All he's done is cause chaos and I think that pretty much summed up his game, " Jamie Redknapp said on Saturday Night Football.
"Why? Because he only defends for himself, he doesn't think about the team. He doesn't think like a proper defender."
Redknapp's is a fair summary. Luiz in the instance of the goal adopts the mindset of a holding midfielder. In driving out to Barkley it's as though he's protecting his back four rather than being an integral part of it. Had he held his position in the centre, as Gary Cahill almost undoubtedly would have, it would likely have been a relatively comfortable aerial duel with Naismith that ensued.
Whilst Chelsea will point to 21 attempts on goal as testimony to the fact they were hardly stifled entirely by their hosts, Martinez deserves credit for the way he drilled his side at the back. This season Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines have acted almost as auxiliary wingers; with Everton's middle three tucked in to create space down the flanks. Had he allowed the buccaneering duo similar licence on Saturday, he would have left great swathes of space in behind for Chelsea's attacking triumvirate behind Eto'o to exploit. To play such a high line against a team of such power on the counter-attack would have been suicidal. Instead, as the graphic below demonstrates, both players (3 & 23) were relatively reserved in their forward forays when Chelsea began to dominate the second-half sparring.
It's interesting to note that of the two full-backs it is Coleman who has been the more advanced all season, with Martinez perhaps addressing a concern that Everton were becoming too one-dimensional under David Moyes in relying so heavily on the left channel for chance creation. Baines' reluctance to venture too far forward in either half owed much to the presence of Ramires, who was used in a right-sided anchoring role to both cut off the threat of the Everton man and give him something else to think about with driving runs of his own. Mourinho would never admit it but Rafa Benitez used a similar tactic last term to great affect in the corresponding fixture.
Barry on his debut was a revelation. Despite having harboured reservations about a lack of football pre-match he lasted 90 minutes and barely put a foot wrong. Composed and subtly inventive in possession, he persistently drove his new side forward, with his flailing block to prevent Eto'o from netting into an open goal in the first period typifying his overall performance.
After the game his manager spoke of how his new signing's performance was a 'master class' and how he is 'a perfect influence for Ross Barkley and James McCarthy'. During his time at City, only Michael Carrick (8125) attempted more passes than Barry (7561) in the Premier League and while both are often accused of being too safe in their choices, Barkley will benefit from being in the company of a man who treats the ball so tenderly. Around the hour mark, before he got a second wind for the final 15 minutes or so, Barkley lost the ball four times in succession. He'll learn though and only a true curmudgeon would begrudge Everton's new poster boy his moment in the sun.
In a game that housed at various stages the playmaking talents of Mata, Eden Hazard, Oscar and Andre Schurrle it was the Englishman who completed by far the most dribbles at seven - his nearest rival for Chelsea was Mata on three. It's a little too early to talk of the Holy Trinity but let's not forget the perennially unsung Leon Osman either. Playing in a role not dissimilar to Leon Britton at Swansea, he ticked things over and topped Everton's rankings for tackles (6), interceptions (4) and passes (47).
519 - Everton have averaged 519 passes per game so far this season - up from 416 per game last term under David Moyes. Progress.- OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 14, 2013
For Chelsea there was much to ponder, not least Mourinho's treatment of Mata. After selecting him to start for the first time this season he gave him just 57 minutes before hooking him off for Oscar. The Portuguese will point to a lack of game time for his decision to withdraw him, but what ensued at Goodison will do little to dispel the idea Mata is on borrowed time at Chelsea. Whilst not at his effervescent best he was the equal to both Hazard and Schurrle and once more, will likely feel somewhat aggrieved.
Eto'o looked sharp in some of the positions he took up and is certainly not shy of getting into the box, a la Torres, but overall it was easy to see that his fitness has gone the way of Christopher Samba following a similar sojourn in Russia. As the diagram below demonstrates, Eto'o's natural goalscorers' instinct invariably compels him to hunt the six-yard box. Mourinho, though, was in no mood to defend the experienced striker's squandering of three key chances.
"We didn't score goals. We had chances and chances but we didn't score," he lamented. "If you don't score, what you create means nothing. It is a simple story. Artistic football without goals is not good. This was the game when we had 21 shots, nine attempts on target and well before they scored the goal we had easy chances to score. I don't think it is a question of sharpness. If the ball to Eto'o from (Andre) Schurrle is sent as a slow pass and Eto'o waits for the ball Barry has time to come. If it is a fast ball Eto'o scores with an open goal - I don't think this defeat is about sharpness."
No, in short, it was about Everton wanting it more. It was about the new Everton embracing Martinez's new methods whilst recalling just what made them a force in their own right under his predecessor Moyes.
"It feels really, really good because it was a special game, a special opposition and a very good performance. We are still going through a transitional period and I think the crowd understands that and as players we understand that. But in the manner that we've been able to defend, sensing danger and coping with one-on-ones then I thought it was superb."
"I don't know if I have to say we didn't deserve to lose, or if I should say we deserved to lose. We didn't deserve it (to lose) because we were the best team, because we play the best football, because we dominate the whole game, because we had 21 shots, because we risk everything we could. In that sense it is fair to say we deserved to win the game. But the other way, a team that has 21 shots, some of them easy shots and easy situations to score and we don't score and we have a mistake in the last minute of the first half..."
"To beat a top side like that will mean so much to the team, the ethic, the dressing room and the manager. People have been questioning the philosophy that he's trying to play football with, but what's apparent today is that they still have the Moyes intensity about the way they play their game. I thought they were magnificent today because it was a tough game. In the second half they had to hang on and there were times when it was backs against the wall with crosses coming into the box. I like the way that Martinez teams play. He did a great job at Wigan and I've got no doubt he'll do a really good job at Everton."
There was never really any doubt about who would scoop both the Barclays Man of the Match and our own gong. Gareth Barry enjoyed the type of debut he will have dreamed of on Friday night and won a deserved 9/10 from our reporter at Goodison Park. It's fair to say more than the odd Everton fan went home asking 'Fellaini who?' after a performance described as 'a master class' by his manager.
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