Magnificent Jordan Pickford display no excuse for Chelsea in latest lacklustre performance

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 (PA)
(PA)

If not for Jordan Pickford, Chelsea would have won this match. But while the England goalkeeper was in Superman mode, it would be letting Thomas Tuchel’s side off the hook to suggest he was the overriding reason for Everton’s crucial 1-0 win.

As inspired as he was, Chelsea were abject. They slept-walked through the first half at Goodison Park, stumbled into the traps Frank Lampard set – and, ultimately, got what they deserved. Absolutely nothing.

Cesar Azpilicueta’s error at the start of the second half was seized on by Richarlison and may go a long way towards the Toffees’ Premier League survival.

The roar from the home crowd that greeted every challenge won, every heroic moment from Pickford, and the final whistle - underlining just how significant a result this was.

As for Chelsea, they felt ill-prepared for the fight they were in for, but – most worryingly for Tuchel – ill-prepared to capitalise on the dominance of the ball Lampard was clearly happy to concede.

Chelsea’s manager simply must address this glaring weakness in his team if he is to have any hope of closing the gap to Manchester City and Liverpool next season.

In back-to-back games in the North West this week – against Manchester United and Everton – they have bossed possession and chances created and walked away with one goal and one point from a possible six. That is not good enough for any team with realistic ambitions of the title.

Which is why his claim that his defence is his biggest concern after these latest dropped points, may not sit too well with supporters.

“If there is something I can do, I will try it, but if I knew about it I would have done it before,” Tuchel said. “For me the key is to have a clean sheet. The issue is that we don’t have enough clean sheets.”

The ongoing lack of cohesion in his forward line, as well as lack of precision, has cost Chelsea too often this season and their manager cannot turn a blind eye to it. At this point it feels as much to do with personnel as the coaching.

This is a problem that has been in place since Tuchel took charge 15 months ago, with the list of strikers who have failed to produce at the point of his attack stretching from Tammy Abraham and Olivier Giroud to Timo Werner and Romelu Lukaku.

 (AP)
(AP)

With Chelsea desperate for a goal with more than 20 minutes to go, Tuchel left £97.5million record signing Lukaku on the bench. That speaks volumes about the Belgian’s future – but also points to his manager’s failure to get a tune out of him.

If a new centre forward is recruited this summer, would there be any confidence that he would thrive where a growing list of others have not?

But it is not only the cutting edge. Where is Chelsea’s guile around the box to open up deep-lying defences?

They too often rely on the width of Reece James or the injured Ben Chilwell - missing the sort of incisive, intricate football City and Liverpool produce.

Mason Mount, deployed as a No10 again, is energetic, but at times his side need craft over graft. These are all areas Tuchel must look at if his side are to find another dimension.

It was not until the second half, with Chelsea a goal behind and fortunate not to be two-down that they finally awoke from their slumber.

Unfortunately for them, Pickford’s concentration levels were sharp despite his inaction.

First the he tipped Mount’s effort from inside the box onto the post, with the ball rolling across to hit the other upright. From the rebound, Azpilicueta fired goalwards, but Pickford was there again to block.

Moments later he was flying at the feet of Toni Rudiger to deny the Chelsea from close range – albeit with his face. He would not be beaten.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek – one of Chelsea’s few players to try to open Everton up – struck from distance, only for Pickford to get a hand on it again.

Even deep into stoppage time, substitute Mateo Kovacic was denied an equaliser when the keeper dived low to claw away from the bottom corner.

Pickford celebrated every save like it was a goal – and so did the crowd.

Chelsea’s fans, meanwhile, were given nothing to cheer.

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