After ending a winless streak with a victory over Watford in the Premier League on Saturday, Chelsea remain at home for a Wednesday night meeting with Everton in the Carabao Cup.
The 4-2 victory at Stamford Bridge over the weekend ended a three-match winless streak for Chelsea in all competitions and eased a bit of pressure on manager Antonio Conte, who would have faced a few questions off the back of three losses and a draw in their last four.
As it stands, the Blues will look to build off the momentum of that come from behind victory to advance in the League Cup at the expense of Everton, who have their own struggles for form at the moment.
The Toffees haven’t won a match since defeating Bournemouth back on 23 September, and in recent weeks, have looked like a team searching for their identity. Everton spent heavily in the summer transfer window and some chemistry issues were to be expected. But with the team struggling so badly that they currently sit in the bottom three in the Premier League, manager Ronald Koeman paid for their struggles with his job on Monday.
Under-23s manager David Unsworth will take charge of Wednesday’s match against Chelsea, but it’s not quite clear what side he will pick to play. Fixing Everton’s problems aren’t necessarily an easy fix.
The departure of Romelu Lukaku left a hole in the side at striker, and Everton didn’t buy a true replacement this summer. Wayne Rooney returned to Everton and Dominic Calvert-Lewin has also seen time up front, but neither has provided the goal-scoring threat of Lukaku and their attack has been a problem since the start of the season.
The Everton defence hasn’t looked great, either, and it hasn’t helped that Koeman never settled on whether to play a back three or a back four, never settled on a centre back partnership — often rotating Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka next to Michael Keane — and didn’t find a right back replacement for the injured Seamus Coleman.
But the main problem with this Everton side is a lack of pace in their first 11. For one reason or another, Koeman’s selections this season have featured players like Wayne Rooney and Gylfi Sigurdsson who aren’t known for their ability to run in behind a defence, and has ignored players like Kevin Mirallas and Ademola Lookman who do possess that pace.
With Unsworth taking over for Koeman, it remains to be seen if some of the younger players, like Lookman and Tom Davies, who featured regularly last season will be restored to the team for important matches, and Wednesday’s match at Stamford Bridge might be Unsworth’s chance to gauge his squad.
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has his own squad problems at the moment. The 4-2 victory over Watford on Saturday was a great turnaround, but there was a 20-minute spell just after half-time where the Hornets probably could have been 4-1 up with the chances that they were able to create. Their lack of ability to finish bailed Chelsea out on the day, but Conte will be acutely aware of the defensive problems that have appeared this season.
More over, Conte’s complaining about squad depth seems repetitive, but he may have a point. While you could argue that his lack of trust in a few players has caused a few of those problems, the fact is that the squad looks thin in a couple of areas, namely left wing back and centre midfield at the moment.
Against Watford, it did appear that a number of players hadn’t quite recovered from the previous match against Roma, and some of the errors shown over the past few matches appear to be coming from a squad that are feeling the effects of playing consecutive matches out of necessity. Rotation is always necessary, and Wednesday’s match against Everton might be one of the last chances at rotating the squad with some key fixtures coming up over the next month.
It will be interesting to see Conte’s team selection on Wednesday because there are five or six players that probably need a rest after playing a number of consecutive matches. The question becomes whether it’s too early in the season to start priortising competitions. As it is right now, this Chelsea squad isn’t built to compete in four competitions.
Wednesday’s match could be a chance to rest some players in a competition that isn’t as important, while at the same time giving a chance to a couple of youth players to see if they might improve the squad’s depth.
Conte has some decisions to make, so it might make for another entertaining evening at Stamford Bridge.