The next time Ronald Koeman sees Antonio Conte, it will be too soon. Since the Dutchman arrived in England, no other manager has outwitted him so comprehensively. After Chelsea trounced Everton 5-0 in November, the champions elect strolled out of Goodison Park with a comfortable 3-0 win under their belts. Throughout the side, Conte’s side demonstrated their quality but yet again, it was a poor big game outing for Koeman.

Chelsea’s effective 3-4-3 caused the Dutchman to lose the plot earlier in the season. Koeman tried to match up carelessly forgetting that going man-for-man against a superior outfit is an inherently flawed approach. Something different was required at Goodison, but again Koeman fell short. It all began to go wrong when Morgan Schneiderlin was ruled out of his third key fixture this month.

Koeman’s reshuffle saw Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Enner Valencia drafted into the attack with Ross Barkley and Tom Davies dragged back to share the defensive burden. For the first half, it worked reasonably well with Calvert-Lewin hitting a post early on, Valencia coming within a whisker of assisting Romelu Lukaku, and Davies crunching Diego Costa with a challenge everyone bar the Chelsea forward knew was well-timed.

Chelsea's Eden Hazard is challenged by Everton's Idrissa Gueye as Tom Davies looks on.Man-marking Eden Hazard, Idrissa Gueye coped well. There was space available but Costa did little more than pretending to be fouled. But Chelsea were a threat. With Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses stretching Everton, Pedro surged forward. The Toffees were fortunate to escape his endeavours but last-ditch fouls by Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta highlighted Chelsea’s vulnerability.

Both Chelsea players were booked which presented Koeman with two clear targets for his half-time reformulating. Kevin Mirallas and Ademola Lookman represented two useful substitutes in this regard. With Calvert-Lewin already booked, it had to be a consideration. Koeman opted to stick with his starting eleven and for the first 20 minutes of the second half, it worked well.

Everton started to have more success going forward. Valencia began to hold the ball up more consistently which freed Barkley to push on slightly and allowed Lukaku to pull wide. Thibaut Courtois was kept busy but Chelsea’s first clean sheet for 11 Premier League games always seemed likely. Nevertheless, Everton were competitive by the time reached the hour mark – the time when Koeman tends to look towards his bench.

Opportunity lost

Valencia’s 58th minute yellow card gave Koeman further cause to reassess his attacking options. Both of his wide men had been booked, so too the centre-halves on their side of Chelsea’s defence. Direct running and some pace seemed likely to unsettle the visitors, if not forcing a key defender into a reckless challenge perhaps penning Chelsea back and forcing Conte into cautionary measures. Koeman hesitated. The 65th minute passed. And then… game over.

Pedro fires Chelsea ahead against Everton at Goodison as Phil Jagielka dives in.Pedro had been Chelsea’s liveliest attacker in the first half. He gave the game its definitive moment when he found space 25 yards out before rifling one in devastatingly into the top corner. It was brutal for Everton who were in the game until then, but from the moment the ball hit the back of the net, they crumbled. Koeman’s hesitance had proved costly, then he made it worse.

Eight minutes went by until finally Koeman made a change. Off came Calvert-Lewin and Valencia, on came Mirallas and for no obvious reason Arouna Kone. The Ivorian had appeared just once since September, just six times this season in total. Koeman’s inkling that he’d get back Everton back into the game was groundless, his view of Kone as worthier of playing time than Lookman truly bizarre.

The home side folded after the first goal. Unsurprisingly, Chelsea took advantage. First Hazard finally drew an error from Idrissa Gueye, the resultant free-kick poked home by luckiest man in football, Gary Cahill, after a predictable Maarten Stekelenburg error before Cesc Fabregas offered a mini-masterclass in spatial awareness to assist fellow sub Willian. It was a fair reflection of Chelsea’s superiority: more organised, more daring, more clinical.

Despite having Gareth Barry in reserve and working his creative midfielders to the bone in defensive roles, Koeman left one sub unused – the final error of his misjudged afternoon. A comprehensive upgrade of the squad is required in the summer, but Koeman’s big game mentality also has to improve. Everton cannot compete with the Premier League elite this season, but you can’t shake the feeling Koeman’s bodged reshuffles have made tough assignments even tougher.
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By Chris Smith
Follow me on Twitter @cdsmith789

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