City were back to their usual business with a thoroughly convincing victory over their top 6 rival in Chelsea. This also happens to be City’s first win this season against a ‘big six’ side (apart from Arsenal – who are in the bottom half of the table albeit 3 pts adrift of their London rivals). Coming into this fixture City were covid struck with 6 first team players, self isolating as a result. However they got sufficient rest, since the Everton game was cancelled and it resulted in their sharpness. Chelsea on the other hand, were on a poor run of form and the result only made it worse for the players and the manager. Chelsea sit 8th in the table. A position that can’t be justified after the recent strides made by the London side in the transfer market.
Managers : Pep Guardiola (Manchester City) and Frank Lampard (Chelsea)
Formation : 4-1-2-3
Goalkeeper : Steffen
Defence : Cancelo, Stones, Dias, Zinchenko
Midfield : Rodri, Gundogan (Fernandinho – 75’), Silva
Attack : Sterling, De Bruyne (Aguero – 86’), Foden ( Mahrez – 86’)
Formation : 4-3-3
Goalkeeper : Mendy
Defence : Azpilicueta, Zouma, Silva, Chilwell
Midfield : Kovacic (Havertz – 77’), Kante (Gilmour – 64’), Mount
Attack : Ziyech (Hudson Odoi – 64’), Werner, Pulisic
Chelsea vs City First Half Analysis
Chelsea and City went from strength to strength in the opening 10 mins of the game with the London side on the front foot – pinning the Manchester club back in their own half. Pep’s heart skipped a beat when Zack Steffen foolishly picked up a back pass from Rodri just on the edge of the penalty box consequently giving way for an indirect Chelsea free-kick. Ziyech’s shot was eventually blocked off by Gundogan ending in a corner.
However with no distinct striker in the city squad, City’s plan on attacks was wonderfully executed in counters. Cancelo teed up an exquisite pass shortly after to set up De Bruyne on a 1v1 vs Mendy only to see him shoot narrowly wide of the goal.
A couple of minutes later, Zinchenko’s pass to Foden was rolled onto Gundogan who made a half turn thereby blanking Thiago Silva and curled in a wonderful goal at the bottom right of the net resulting in a sucker punch for Londoners. City – a goal up.Just a min later De Bruyne drifted towards the left and set up Foden for another goal after nutmegging Azpilicueta. Foden chipped it from the narrowest of angles. Mendy was never saving it.
Never back in the game
Two goals in quick succession and City were back in their strides. Chelsea had their moments but Stones and Dias were always there to sweep up the balls Rodri gave away cheaply under pressure. The defence looked rock solid with every city defender knowing exactly what to do. Pulisic struggled with Cancelo and Ziyech always came up against Zinchenko with either Foden or Gundogan pressuring him. All he could do was spam in crosses that were never finding either Werner or Pulisic.
Chelsea were aggressive in their approach – something that massively backfired against a city side that have pace in their flanks. Around the 30th minute mark Kante tried to clear the ball unconvincingly only for De Bruyne to head it forwards and set up Sterling on a 1v1 with Mendy. Sterling was never finishing it but he bought his teammates time as it drifted left and curled in a shot with his favoured right foot that struck that post but ricocheted off De Bruyne for City’s third. The game was over in the first half itself. Chelsea had no answer to City’s attack because De Bruyne’s positioning was random. A proper false nine is a nightmare for defenders. Chelsea’s backline learnt it the hard way.
Chelsea vs City Second Half
As the second half went underway, City were more and more conservative in their approach. Bernardo Silva, as energetic as always ran for the entirety of the match and dictated tempo in the middle of the park. He was composed and played a crucial role switching the play through cross field balls. Chelsea actually never looked threatening with only a couple of shots on target out of which one came in the last minute of the match. They had lot’s of the ball but couldn’t do anything with that kind of possession.
As a matter of fact, the 45% possession that City had over the course of the match is one of the lowest a Guardiola side has ever managed. But then again, with the covid outbreak in the squad, Guardiola had to improvise and it all worked out in the end. Chelsea looked a tad threatening when Hudson Odoi came on for Ziyech just past the hour mark, but all he could do was spam in crosses that were inevitably met by Stones or Dias in the city defence.
Having tall players in the squad helps and City do realise it now. They look far more confident in the set pieces – both while attacking and defending. Rodri, Cancelo, Stones or Dias didn’t find it difficult in clearing Chelsea’s poor free kicks and corners.
Finally, just when City thought they had secured another clean sheet, Hudson odoi tapped in a goal from a wonderful low cross by Havertz. Zinchenko should have caught up with Hudson Odoi but perhaps he started off late because Havertz looked to be offside and eventually could never match the pace of the attacker. All in all, the second half was pretty uneventful yet pragmatic.
This was a much needed win for City to assert themselves in the title race. A big win would give massive confidence to the squad who had a relatively poor start to the season. They are 4 points off the top albeit having a couple of games in hand and with 6 favourable fixtures coming up, City have the perfect chance to put in a streak together that could cement themselves in the top 4.
Chelsea on the other hand are in deep trouble and sit 8th. Their poor run has seen them pick up only 4 points out of available 18. With Leicester, Wolves and Tottenham yet to come, if Chelsea do not pick up their form things would go from bad to worse with Lampard potentially having the sack.
The season is one of its kind and none of the teams deserve to be in the position they are in at the moment.
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