WIGAN, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: Tim Howard of Everton in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Wigan Athletic and Everton at DW Stadium on February 4, 2012 in Wigan, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
With Saturday's match against Chelsea looming large, we got a chance to talk to SB Nation's fantastic Chelsea blog, We Ain't Got No History. We spoke with one of their editor's Graham, and he was kind enough to provide us with some insight into Chelsea's season, and what he is looking for in this weekends match. After you are done reading, head on over to their site if you want to learn some more about all things Chelsea.
WAGNH: This is actually almost the same season as last year (except we made it further in the Carling Cup and are still in the FA Cup). Chelsea are a squad with some obvious flaws, they're having to adjust to a radical new system implemented by the coach, and they don't really have the quality to compete at the very top end of the table. We knew that at the start of the year, of course - the 3rd/4th battle was always where we were going to end up.
RBM: With AVB now getting the "support of the chairman" how long do you think he lasts and Stamford Bridge, and does he deserve to finish out the season?
WAGNH: I think AVB will be fine. Chelsea spent a lot of money in firing Carlo Ancelotti and picking up Villas-Boas, and they almost certainly wouldn't have done so with this season in mind. From my standpoint, Ancelotti is a win-now guy, able to get the best out of an aging team. He's not the man for a youth-oriented rebuild stretched over several years. AVB says that a transition year isn't acceptable, but every team has to do something like this once in a while, and I'm not going to judge him for it when there's obviously a long-term plan in the works.
RBM: What does Chelsea need to do to their squad in the coming seasons if they want to become realistic contenders for the EPL title?
WAGNH: They need to fix at least four positions: Left back, left wing, right wing, centre forward. You're all aware of the collapse of Fernando Torres, but Ashley Cole is nowhere near what he once was and Ryan Bertrand isn't get good enough to replace him. Finally, it looks increasingly as though Juan Mata should be playing in the hole, and that means we need wingers. Lucas Moura and Eden Hazard are apparently on the way, though, which is exciting.
RBM: Chelsea has struggled at times to hold onto leads. Are there any specific causes for this or is the team just playing poorly as a group?
WAGNH: It's a bit weird, considering the calibre of the defenders on the squad. Whenever the club goes on the defensive, they seem to give possession away too frequently, and that means more attacks, more chances of mistakes, etc. It's all a big perplexing.
RBM: Everton and Chelsea have played some fantastic matches against each other over the past few seasons. Which one stands out the most in your mind and why?
WAGNH: I think it's the 4th round FA Cup match last year, to be honest. Leighton Baines taking the equalising free kick to make it go to penalties, missing one, and then Nicolas Anelka and Cole missing theirs? It wasn't a game that meant much in the big scheme of things, but it was exciting* and annoying and that makes it stick out.
*At the end.
RBM: What is Everton lively to see from Chelsea in terms of how they like to attack?
WAGNH: For most of the year, Chelsea have played Mata on the left, Daniel Sturridge on the right, and one of Didier Drogba and Torres in the centre. Against Manchester United, they moved to a 4-2-3-1 with Mata in the hole. This means a lot less crossing and a lot more clever buildup, which is good. Unfortunately it means a lot of Fernando Torres, which is bad. Also, overlapping fullback runs and long-range shots if the team's getting frustrated.
RBM: If Chelsea wants to win at Goodison Park this weekend, what do they need to do?
WAGNH: Score. Meltdown against United aside, Chelsea have looked very sturdy at the back, but not so clever going forward. A permanent switch to a 4-2-3-1 will help, but with both Torres and Sturridge misfiring, Ramires injured and Frank Lampard (probably) out, Chelsea don't have much in the way of a goalscoring threat. They'll need to invent one.
RBM: Which players from Chelsea do Everton need to look out for this weekend?
WAGNH: Mata and Michael Essien. Either will dictate play if you let the, Essien controlling the centre of the pitch and Mata coming up with clever passes or drifting into positions that the defence just can't deal with.
RBM: Which Everton players scare you the most for this weekend's match.
WAGNH: Baines. He's your best player, and I wouldn't be surprised if he took Sturridge out of the game entirely while also being able to tear us apart on the overlap. He's been a huge problem in the past and I'd like it if he went away. The rest of the team is solid, but nothing Chelsea shouldn't be able to handle, assuming the team doesn't have one of those days where they just forget to play.
RBM: With no Seamus Coleman in the squad due to injury, how relieved will Ashley Cole be on Saturday?
WAGNH: At this point I don't think it matters who Cole goes up against - he's still going to have problems. Sorry if that sounds frustrated and angry. I'm frustrated and angry.
RBM: What is your prediction for the match this weekend?
WAGNH: We rarely win at Goodison Park. Let's call this one a 1-1.