It was a superb display of football at Stamford Bridge when Chelsea thrashed Everton 5-0.
It was a the kind of spectacle that the Premier League hadn’t witnessed this season prior to this game and one that will send shivers down the spine of every other club and manager in the English top flight. Costa, Hazard and Alonso all got in on the action as Chelsea demolished Ronald Koeman’s visiting Everton by smashing 5 past them. It was a performance greater than that against Manchester United, not just in terms of goals, but every other aspect of the pitch. Here are 5 things we learnt from the game.
Hazard, Costa & Matic: The Resurgence
Costa, Hazard and Matic were arguably the most important players in Chelsea’s 2014/15 title winning triumph. After setting the Premier League alight two years ago, their form went on a completely downward spiral. Post the sacking of Jose Mourinho, these three players bore the brunt of the fans wrath.
This season, however, Antonio Conte has managed to bring the very best out of them. Their current form is arguably better than that of their title winning campaign at this stage. Matic is among the top of the assist charts along with the likes of Mesut Ozil and De Bruyne. The Serbian has now registered 6 assists in 11 Premier League games this season.
Hazard is once again his confident best, making life hell for the defenders all over. The Belgian is a contender for the ‘Player of The Year’ once again, having scored 7 goals and getting 1 assist in 11 Premier League appearances this term already. He has already surpassed his total goal tally from last season in only a third of the appearances.
However, it is Diego Costa’s behavior and fortunes that have both taken a complete turn from last season. He is still the confrontational and passionate figure we have known, but in the best possible way. Despite getting knocked on the ankle early in the game, he ignored the blood and the pain, walked it off, and went on to score his 9th goal of the season and also registered his first assist of the season in the process. It is that kind of shift that has won him back a place in the Chelsea fans, along with the rest of the players.
Pedro & Alonso: Revelation
Post the end of the transfer window, only Marcos Alonso would have been expected to play and possibly hold down a starting spot until the Blues managed to get a better name to fill in at right-back in the January or future transfer windows. But since that 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Arsenal, Antonio Conte’s change in formation has brought the very best out of these players.
Pedro had a sad show last season, like the rest of the Chelsea team. After a bright start, he too suffered a loss in form and confidence. His big money move was looked at as a bargain but it seemed anything but that. He managed a decent 8 goals and 3 assists in all competitions last term. Much wasn’t expected from the Spaniard and he was going to be nothing other than a fringe player on the sidelines. However, his has been a revelation as a part of the front three after being forced to play in that position following Willian’s absence.
Alongside Costa, he has been in fantastic form recently, registering 2 goals and 5 assists already this term. He is looking like his old self and at this rate will slowly get back to his old world class best.
Marcos Alonso has been superb in the left wingback role behind Eden Hazard. He has built up a superb understanding with the Belgian and is part of a defence that hasn’t conceded even once in 5 Premier League games. His marauding runs and willingness to track back make him seem as if he’s been playing at this level for years, and his superb finish through the legs of a helpless Stekelenburg showed a glimpse of his attacking prowess.
Victor Moses: A New Hope
After loan spells with Stoke City, West Ham United and Liverpool, Victor Moses finally found a manager who decided to place his faith in him after another impressive pre-season. Under Jose Mourinho, the Nigerian was never even considered for a starting spot and was always loaned out to clubs in England where he never truly made a great impact. However, he has starred for Antonio Conte in the right wingback role. His pace, athleticism and willingness to track back and defend have made him a key player in Antonio Conte’s machine. At first glance, it would be hard to imagine that Moses has been playing in this position only since October. With Conte guiding him and Cesar Azpilicueta helping him on the field, the 26-year-old has emerged as a top notch defender. That combined with his already formidable attacking prowess, have made him a superb wingback.
Consistently brilliant performances against Manchester United, Hull City, Leicester City and now Everton, have cemented his place in the Blues’ squad. Moses’ rise to the Chelsea first team is one of the most significant changes this term, as it gives hope to the many other talented youngsters who are a part of Chelsea’s infamous ‘loan army’.
Luiz, Cahill & Azpilicueta: Unbreakable
Since that 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Arsenal, Chelsea have scored 16 goals in 5 Premier League games. But what should be considered an equally big achievement is that their 3-man defence is yet to concede a goal. In over 450 minutes of Premier League football, no team has been able to slot the ball past Thibaut Courtois, including the likes of Jamie Vardy, Juan Mata, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, etc. This is a tremendous turnaround from last year, when Chelsea were letting in the goals for fun. It was widely expected that Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic would be shipped out in the summer and no Chelsea fan in their wildest dreams could have imagined David Luiz returning to Stamford Bridge.
Having four at the back from the start of the season didn’t look too promising as none of the defenders looked like they had shaken off last season’s horrid form. Injuries to John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic didn’t help their cause, but Conte has managed to get the best out of Cahill, Luiz and Azpilicueta in the center of defence.
Azpilicueta has continued to show that he would be willing to play anywhere in defence and his performances at center back show his superb versatility. David Luiz, who over the course of his career has gained quite the reputation for his error-prone displays, is excelling in the role of an anchor in the middle of defence while Gary Cahill has seemed to have gotten back to his very best and is now thriving as part of the back three and as stand-in Captain.
Chelsea were linked with some top quality defenders across Europe in the summer as they desperately looked for reinforcements, but ultimately failed to get most of them. It seemed as if Chelsea were ‘settling’ for David Luiz and Marcos Alonso. But now Chelsea have one of the best defensive set ups in the league and only time will tell how good they can actually become.
Antonio Conte: Faith, Passion & Will
After what seemed like a desperate end to the transfer window, Chelsea fans were wondering about how this team would line up with the kind of personnel they had. Other than N’golo Kante, there was no world class addition to the squad and fans were wondering how different things would be from last season when they had the same players. But Conte decided to put his faith in his players and it has paid dividends. The likes of Matic, Pedro and Moses are thriving with this new found responsibility and have emerged as Chelsea’s finest performers this season.
The passion shown in the field is clearly something that the players have gained from the Italian, who is now already a hugely loved figure at Stamford Bridge for the way he’s turned things around and his animated touchline displays. The players seem as if they want to fight for the club, and there is desire in their displays. When players of such high calibre perform at their full potential, it makes Chelsea an extremely dangerous side to play. The affect of Conte’s arrival has been unprecedented and the kind of football and the results at Stamford Bridge are testament to his class as a manager and his ability to be a leader of men, which are a sign of great things to come.