There are statement results to kickstart a new era and this was only one in the sense that, after four consecutive defeats at Goodison Park, Chelsea won at what has seemed their bogey ground. For Clearlake Capital, their £4.25 billion investment should secure something more exciting and more emphatic than a stodgy, if hard-fought, triumph in a low-calibre game. For Todd Boehly, the co-owner who has doubled up as his own director of football and whose summer transfer deliberations have encompassed everyone from Cristiano Ronaldo to Carney Chukwuemeka, victory was secured by two throwbacks to past regimes.
Jorginho, once seen as Maurizio Sarri’s pet project, scored a penalty won by Ben Chilwell, the signing Frank Lampard championed more than any other. That it condemned Lampard to defeat felt the least of the cruelties for Chelsea’s record scorer. His past is not his greatest concern in a week when Everton have stumbled into the season defined by costly injuries.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin was ruled out in training, leaving Everton without a striker – even the departed Duncan Ferguson was in the Sky Sports studios, rather than offering an intimidating presence on the touchline – and the luckless Ben Godfrey was taken to hospital long before the final whistle, stretchered off with a seemingly serious injury.
It meant that when Jorginho scored it was in the 54th minute of an elongated first half. Chilwell’s belated first start of 2022 marked his own recovery from a knee problem.
He will face competition for his place from Marc Cucurella and the most expensive defender in Chelsea’s history debuted after Chilwell came off; in an otherwise quiet game, he had nonetheless made a decisive and timely contribution. He was bundled over by the clumsy Abdoulaye Doucoure. Eschewing his trademark hop, skip and jump for a more conventional run-up, Jorginho drilled in the penalty.
Cucurella’s bow was too brief to draw definitive conclusions but Chelsea could draw satisfaction from the maiden starts of the first two signings of the Boehly years. Kalidou Koulibaly looked a redoubtable figure, albeit in a defence that was untroubled because Everton lacked a goalscorer.
Life after Romelu Lukaku meant Raheem Sterling’s Chelsea bow came as a false nine. He celebrated what he thought was his first Blues goal, slotting in after Jordan Pickford fumbled N’Golo Kante’s shot, but an offside flag curtailed his enjoyment. Later, a fine sliding challenge by Vitaly Mykolenko meant he must wait a little longer to open his account but his movement and persistence suggested he will be a fine fit for a Thomas Tuchel team.
Yet neither Kai Havertz nor Mason Mount excelled and, in the broader picture, Chelsea have to become more prolific.
A dreadful exhibition of corner-taking by Reece James was one reason why they did not convert ample possession into more clear-cut chances. Everton often had to defend and a series of blocks were testament to James Tarkowski’s forthright brand of defiance.
The former Burnley centre-back was the best of Everton’s band of newcomers. He had a header acrobatically tipped over by Edouard Mendy; factor in a pinpoint diagonal pass to Nathan Patterson and he lent an attacking threat. Everton had precious little otherwise: Doucoure had a shot at redemption, but Mendy blocked and Mount prevented Mason Holgate from turning the rebound in.
But there was a Calvert-Lewin shaped void in attack. Lampard delivered a vote of no confidence in Dele Alli, benched despite Everton’s lack of anyone even vaguely resembling a centre-forward. He was summoned when Dwight McNeil was substituted after a subdued bow.
Until then, Everton’s forward line consisted of three wingers with Anthony Gordon granted the role in the middle. He had a freedom to dribble, but his best work was done in deeper positions and his lack of aerial ability meant Everton did not have a target in the box.
They did not have much of a midfield, either, in effect playing 5-2-3 when Chelsea forced their wing-backs into defence. Lampard’s starting 11 was an indication they scarcely felt ready for the start of the season. Depending on how Alex Iwobi is classified, it included five defenders, four wingers, a solitary central midfielder and no strikers.
There should at least be reinforcements in the centre of the pitch: Amadou Onana was in the directors’ box as his proposed move from Lille nears completion.
A change of personnel is yet to bring a change of luck. Everton’s season last year was pockmarked by injuries. This continued in a similar vein. Godfrey was hurt while blocking a Havertz shot, which in turn followed a compendium of errors: Godfrey’s poor back pass, the officials’ failure to notice the ball had gone out for a corner before Jordan Pickford’s clearance only went to Havertz. A seven-minute delay was the first indication Godfrey may not be back soon.
If that forces Everton to accelerate their interest in Conor Coady, the probability they may be trying to sign players for the middle of defence, midfield and attack respectively is a sign of their shortcomings.