LONDON — Chelsea had fun in the west London sun on Sunday as they breezed past a jaded Everton side 2-0.
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First half goals from Cesc Fabregas and Alvaro Morata did the business for Antonio Conte‘s side who put in their best display of the embryonic Premier League season to right the ship ahead of the international break.
The reigning champs are almost back to their best.
Here’s what we learned from Stamford Bridge.
CHELSEA’S RAPID RECOVERY
Whether they were actually hurtling towards another season of turmoil can be debated, but the signs were not good for Chelsea over preseason and early in the campaign.
Things looked a lot better for Antonio Conte in the bright sunshine at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. Those reports of him being the favorite to be the next PL boss to leave his position and Chelsea seeking out Thomas Tuchel to replace him all seem rather silly now.
On Sunday they showed why there are the reigning Premier League champions in a dominant display despite still missing plenty of key players like Eden Hazard, Gary Cahill and Diego Costa.
This recovery has been a rapid one.
On the opening day they lost 3-2 to Burnley in a bizarre game where they went down to nine men. They followed that up by beating Tottenham 2-1 at Wembley in a gritty, yet truncated display.
This performance suggested the Blues are back to their best and they could have won by a more comfortable margin had Morata, Pedro and Victor Moses converted second half chances.
Chelsea have recovered rapidly from what many were calling an early-season meltdown. In the final days of the transfer window it appears they will strengthen further with a tough UEFA Champions League group stage challenge coming up, but with star players to return and new signings Tiemoue Bakayoko, Morata and Antonio Rudiger settling in well, things are slowly but surely coming together for Chelsea.
STATIC MORATA DELIVERING
With two goals and two assists, all with his head, in his first two Premier League home games it is safe to say Alvaro Morata is settling in rather well at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea’s most-expensive signing took time to adapt after arriving from Real Madrid for $96.5 million in July but he was given a standing ovation as he was subbed off late on in Sunday’s win.
The scary thing is that Morata has plenty of room for improvement.
He doesn’t charge around like Diego Costa up top and Conte cajoled his Spanish international striker on multiple occasions to try and close down Everton’s defense when they had the ball.
Morata is arguably a much better finisher than Costa and his ability in the air is well-suited to Chelsea’s game with crosses coming in from Marcos Alonso, Willian, Pedro and Fabregas.
As he came off Morata looked either slightly miffed at being substituted or perhaps it was disappointment in his own display.
That proves he knows he can deliver a better all-around performance but while he irons out the kinks and gets used to leading the line in the PL it won’t do him any harm to keep scoring and assisting.
EVERTON’S STRIKER SHORTAGE
Everton boss Ronald Koeman cut a frustrated figure on the sidelines as Stamford Bridge sweltered in the afternoon sun.
His Toffees looked like a side which had played at Man City on Monday and then in the Europa League on Thursday before traveling back from Split, Croatia. In midfield they were sluggish with Tom Davies and Idrissa Gana Gueye giving the ball away and the former was hooked off at half time.
Jordan Pickford‘s kicking was off and center backs Michael Keane and Ashley Williams collided on more than one occasion as they tried to clear the ball. Simply put, it was an off day for an Everton side who looked to be feeling the effects of three away games in seven days.
Yet up front is where the biggest problem remains for Koeman.
In their first three PL games all they have is Wayne Rooney‘s two goals in his opening two PL games back at Everton. Sandro Ramirez cut an isolated figure up top on his own with Rooney and Gylfi Sigurdsson in support of him. Rooney was booked and looked agitated throughout as he snatched at a shot and was heckled by the home fans just a few days after announcing his retirement from the English national team. The hope is that Rooney’s England retirement would rejuvenate his club career and provide the goals Everton need to achieve their lofty ambitions.
They will need a lot more than that and reports linking them with an outrageous move for Chelsea’s wantaway striker Diego Costa seem far-fetched but given the financial muscle the Toffees have shown this summer nothing seems too outlandish at Goodison Park right now.
Koeman’s insistence that he still needs a striker in the final four days of the transfer window is legitimate. Rooney teed up Sandro in the second half but the Spaniard hesitated and had his shot blocked when clean through. Sigurdsson and others buzzed around but there was no cutting edge, no real threat up top in a narrow 3-4-2-1 formation for the Toffees.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Ademola Lookman are top young talents who possess pace and can possible score 5-10 goals per season, at best. But if Everton are to challenge for the top four, as they hope to, they’ll need more than that.
There is a Lukaku-sized hole in Everton’s attack and no matter how many top-class attacking midfielders they have, they’ve simply lacked a cutting edge in the final third and weren’t near Chelsea’s box often enough.