Chelsea go with two defensive midfielders but defensive struggles continue

Steven Naismith's perfect hat trick gave Everton a 3-1 win over Chelsea, handing the visitors their third defeat from the opening five fixtures. Chelsea had three defeats all of last season. It is the worst start to a league campaign since 1988.

Afterwards Mourinho said his players deserved to get more out of the game. He was either being sarcastic or it was a shocking misreading of the game. Everton dominated the scoring chances against a poor Chelsea side and were good value for the three points.

Naismith forced introduction changes game

Roberto Martinez opted to start Muhamed Besic in the left attacking midfield role. It was an interesting decision. Besic's main position is holding midfield. You'll often see a traditional central attacking midfielder deployed on the channels but it's much rarer to see a holding midfielder used there. Besic started fairly well- an energetic burst forward led to an Everton corner but he pulled up with what appeared to be a hamstring injury which led to the early introduction of Steven Naismith. It was a substitution that would change the course of the game. Naismith is a menace to play against and his energy and movement off the ball today was excellent. His hat trick was just the fifth by a substitute in the Premier League and the fifth against Chelsea.

Chelsea use two defensive midfielders but still struggle defensively

Chelsea had looked defensively frail in the opening four fixtures- only Sunderland had conceded more than Chelsea's 9 going into match week five. In those first four fixtures Cesc Fabregas partnered Nemanja Matic in the two holding midfield roles. The struggles were pinned largely on that partnership not providing enough protection for the back four. Fabregas is a deep lying creator but is poor defensively and Matic hasn't recovered the form that made him the Premier League's standout holding midfielder in the first half of last season.

Today Mourinho opted to employ two truly defensive midfielders in front of the back four, partnering Matic with John Obi Mikel. Fabregas played higher up the pitch in a #10 role. Mourinho used the same strategy in this fixture early last season when Fabregas played in front of Matic and Ramires. That contest was a wild 6-3 Chelsea win, a scoreline few would have predictedgiven Chelsea were using their more defensively structured lineup. 

They conceded three again today but this time didn't have the offensive firepower to overcome poor defending. Matic and Mikel have size and strength in abundance but looked slow and lumbering today against the considerable pace of Naismith, Barkley and Kone in Everton's attacking midfield positions. Naismith tucked inside from the left in space between Chelsea right back Ivanovic and Mikel. Both of his first two goals came from collecting possession in this space.

For the first his movement inside opened up space down the left channel for left back Jordan Galloway. He collected possession in midfield, played it wide to Galloway then continued his run and headed home Galloway's cross. For the second Everton quickly swung the ball from right to left. Lukaku picked up possession on the right side of midfield and played Barkley breaking forward through the middle of the pitch. Naismith again moved into a position just to the left of Mikel. Barkley spotted him and before Ivanovic could close down Naismith fired in a left footed effort that beat Begovic at his back post.

The Mikel-Matic partnership makes Chelsea more suited to playing on the counter. However, Everton gave the visitors few opportunities to play on the break. They dropped quickly into a solid defensive shape when they conceded possession and forced Chelsea to try to patiently break them down. Neither Matic nor Mikel are particularly expansive passers at the base of midfield and as a result Chelsea struggled to link play into the three goal scorers Hazard, Costa and Pedro. They had plenty of possession in midfield but struggled to penetrate Everton's midfield bank of four and were therefore left to try speculative shots from distance. Matic had a brilliant strike for Chelsea's goal but the home side were happy to take their chances that Chelsea wouldn't score many 25 yard pile drivers. Chelsea finished with 62% possession but had just 2 shots on target to Everton's 9.

With Chelsea struggling to get into space between Everton's defensive and midfield lines, Fabregas began dropping into deeper positions to get onto the ball. However, when he collected it he had 8 Everton outfield players in front of him. Fabregas is a gifted passer but isn't particularly clever with his movement when playing in the #10 role. It's no surprise he prefers playing in a deeper role- he is more comfortable getting on the ball in space deep in midfield and picking out forward passes than he is finding tight pockets of space in between the lines. Taking up clever positions between the lines was a skill Juan Mata was particularly good at. At times Chelsea miss his intelligent movement.