Caicedo dominates midfield as Palmer shines: Five key battles in Chelsea’s thrashing of Everton

Cole Palmer scored four goals in a dominant Chelsea display as they recorded their first clean sheet in 14 games and moved to within three points of sixth spot.

Palmer became the first Blues player to hit four goals in a game since Frank Lampard did it against Aston Villa in 2010, and his stellar performance was added to by Nicolas Jackson’s tenth league goal of the season, and Alfie Gilchrist’s first Chelsea goal.

It has been a rarity to see such a complete performance from Mauricio Pochettino’s side but the Argentine saw many of his players come out victorious against their Everton counterparts.

Here are five individual battles that were crucial throughout the game…

Palmer vs Branthwaite

When Chelsea pick up a result it is normally down to their number 10. The Blues have missed a player who can drag them through difficult times ever since Eden Hazard departed in 2019, but the mercurial Palmer may have filled that void left by the Belgian.

The 21-year-old found himself up against Jarrad Branthwaite, another potential candidate for Gareth Southgate’s Euros squad, and at times he left the defender looking clueless. Palmer occupied a space between Everton’s midfield and defence. By forcing Branthwaite to push up to him and for the first goal, he rolled it through the defender’s legs, exchanged the ball with Jackson and slotted the ball past Jordan Pickford. For the second, he snuck behind the Toffees defender and headed into an empty net, and for his hat-trick he anticipated Pickford’s sloppy pass and lobbed him with his weak foot, with a penalty kick to round off a fabulous performance.

Beto vs Chalobah

Before Palmer scored his 17th, 18th, 19th and then 20th Premier League goals of the season, it could have been so different for Sean Dyche’s side. Beto found himself in front of Trevoh Chalobah but ballooned Seamus Coleman’s cross over the bar ten minutes in and with Dominic Calvert-Lewin ruled out, the Portuguese missed an opportunity to stamp his mark on the centre-forward spot.

The Everton striker has scored three goals since his arrival to Merseyside and a lack of confidence was evident during his performance at Stamford Bridge. A poor touch when given the opportunity to run in behind allowed Chalobah to clean up, and even when he peeled away from his marker a vital Chalobah flick meant he couldn’t convert James Tarkowski’s cross. It was a tough evening for Beto, who continued to find positive positions but has struggled to transfer over the conversion rate we saw in Serie A to the Premier League.

Caicedo vs Everton’s midfield

With Enzo Fernandez injured it meant Conor Gallagher was deployed in a deeper role next to Moises Caicedo, and the Ecuadorian dominated against James Garner and Amadou Onana so much so that they were both replaced at half-time. Chelsea’s second most expensive signing ever was in complete control offensively and defensively. Midway through the first-half, Caicedo picked off Garner’s pass and set Jackson away but the forward couldn’t apply the cool touch he showed for his goal.

When Dyche turned to Andre Gomes and dropped Abdoulaye Doucoure in a deeper position right after the break, the 22-year-old continued to hunt the ball, and when in possession he played it quickly to keep the tempo high. With Gallagher by his side, he looked to have more of a freedom to search for the ball and grew in confidence throughout. This type of performance has been pretty absent in his Chelsea career but this was certainly an encouraging sign.

Madueke vs Mykolenko

Chelsea recorded their biggest win of the season, and with four attack-minded players starting, in Jackson, Palmer, Mkyhailo Mudryk and Noni Madueke it saw Pochettino’s side play with a much more potent frontline. Madueke won the penalty for Palmer’s fourth and after getting taken down, he was adamant he was to take the spot kick. Gallagher was forced to intervene and give it to Chelsea’s top goal scorer, but if Madueke was to take it, it would have capped off a lively performance had he scored.

From the first minute the Englishman created problems for Vitali Mykolenko. Everton struggled to react to him and with Raheem Sterling missing today, Madueke may have earned himself a start for their FA Cup semi-final next weekend.

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Jackson vs Tarkowski

Jackson again had a busy evening at Stamford Bridge, leading the line well against Tarkowski throughout and managed to continuously get the better of his opponent. When the Everton defender tried to get close, the Senegalese international was often able to roll past him and open up space in front of him, and when Tarkowski allowed Jackson to have time he took one touch, turned and struck a fierce shot to put Chelsea 4-0 up.

At times he has had to prove a lot of doubters wrong in his maiden season in England but how he performed against one of the Premier League’s most aggressive defenders will give the fans faith and help Jackson to continue to build confidence. With 16 minutes remaining, he took on four players including Tarkowski and laid the ball off to Mudryk who hit a weak effort into the arms of Pickford, and when Everton tried to win back some pride in a harrowing defeat, the Chelsea striker eased pressure well with his hard work. He has now joined Palmer in becoming the second Chelsea player to hit double digits in the Premier League this season, a feat no Chelsea player did last season. 

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