Three key things from Chelsea 1 Everton 1

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 16: Mason Mount of Chelsea in action with Anthony Gordon of Everton during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Everton at Stamford Bridge on December 16, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 16: Mason Mount of Chelsea in action with Anthony Gordon of Everton during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Everton at Stamford Bridge on December 16, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images) /

Everton grabbed a superb point at Chelsea last night with a really determined performance and with the young players shining. So, what are the three key things that emerged from the 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge?

1. Anthony Gordon looks like he can be a Premier League player

Gordon has been a young player I and many other Everton supporters have been championing for a while now and he has deserved his chances recently.

Last night, he was arguably the man-of-the-match producing a very determined, confident and mature performance.

His work rate is something that we have come to expect, but he also showed a high level of football intelligence with the way he used the ball and how he was able to win free-kicks.

One of those of course led to the set-piece that he took and swung in a fantastic ball which Jarrad Branthwaite stabbed home for the equaliser.

And, that creativity is the one thing that has been largely missing from his game since he started playing regularly in the first-team. Against Chelsea he showed he perhaps really does have the skill and ability to be a quality Premier League forward.

As always, you have to say it’s still early days for him and he must keep maintaining this level of consistency. But, I think he has shown the desire and maturity to be a regular starter regardless of when all the senior players are back and even whoever comes though the door in January.

Talking of the transfer window, I’ve said before that the emergence of Gordon (and also perhaps Lewis Dobbin who was bright and lively when he came on) might mean that the club don’t have to try and sign another winger/forward in the New Year.

That would possibly allow Rafa Benitez to concentrate what will still be limited financial resources on strengthening his defence and midfield. The injury problems and the opportunities this has created for players such as Gordon might well prove a real blessing in disguise in the long-run.

2. Jarrad Branthwaite should be a real option at centre-back 

Another youngster who did exceptionally well last night was Branthwaite. After a slightly hesitant start, the teenage centre-back was commanding and stylish and once again hinted at the calibre of player he could become.

Branthwaite is a defender that has always been highly rated and when he came into the first-team at the end of last season he didn’t look out of place and was solid and composed.

He is a good, strong defender and possesses real pace and excellent confidence and ability on the ball. There have been comparisons made with John Stones and those don’t seem excessive after a performance like that last night.

Being left-footed as well gives the the defence better balance and a natural combination whether that’s in a three like last night or a more conventional back-four.

Everton also have so many injuries that there is simply no excuse for not giving these young players a chance and I reckon Benitez was probably pleasantly surprised by how well they responded to the call yesterday.

The manager apparently said that despite earlier hints, he didn’t envisage Branthwaite going out on loan in January, which I think is the right decision. He’s young and will make mistakes for sure, but let’s see if he continues to trust him and give him oppportunites.

Building a new-look team around young, hungry players does anyway seem the best way forward and given the club’s chronic financial problems, it might be the only way to go.

3. Could a back-three help create better shape and solidity?

There has been a lot of discussion this season around the right kind of tactical shape and formation for this Toffees’ team and much criticism of Benitez for getting it wrong.

Against Brentford and particularly Crystal Palace, I think he did make bad decisions which proved costly and loaded additional pressure on him and his team’s shoulders.

Benitez does seem committed to playing a very compact, defensive, counter-attacking game away from home, although I hope he will try a more attacking approach at Goodison Park and when he has all his first-choice players back and fit.

The Blues’ defenders though haven’t been good enough to make his system work and injuries, individual errors and the constant chopping and changing of personel have persistently undermined the attempts to do this.

Against Chelsea, Everton defended better although as I mentioned in the match review, they also had the outstanding Jordan Pickford to thank for making a succession of great saves.

The back-three that played last night did ok though with the extra man perhaps helping create more compactness, improved solidity and recovery from mistakes. It’s a flexible tactic that also allowed the full-backs to push up and overlap and support their wide players making counter-attacking more effective.

It’s only one game for sure so I’m not advocating a back-three every week and I still think a 4-3-3 is the ideal formation. But, if Benitez is going to persist with this approach – especially away from home at places like Chelsea – then it could enable him to better do so and pick up more of these unexpected and valuable points as well.