The Blues’ newfound resilliance shone through as the Citizens imploded…
This was the clash that would set the tone for the rest of the Premier League season. It was a litmus test for league leaders Chelsea to gauge if they were the real deal in this title race. For Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, this match was of vital importance as he sought to keep his side from facing their first defeat in 7 games. For Manchester City it was a question of whether they could rise to the occasion and lay down a marker as title contenders.
What transpired was a mix of poor finishing on City’s part, questionable refereeing and a ruthlessness that Conte has brought to the Blues’ ranks. Khel Now takes a look at the three key takeaways that this titanic clash threw up.
City need to convert chances if they are to retain any thought of winning the league
61% possession, 14 shots out of which 5 were on target against Chelsea’s 39% possession, 10 shots out of which 4 were on goal. The numbers genuinely reflected the dominance that City had in the game. Guardiola shifted to a back three to mirror Chelsea’s system. While Spurs and Everton had tried unsuccessfully to unravel Conte’s 3-4-3, Guardiola’s history with the formation dates back to his Barcelona days where he used it with devastating effect.
City were clearly on the up as they took the game to Chelsea, who without one half of their midfield engine in Nemanja Matic, ran the risk of being outfought in midfield. Kevin de Bruyne, David Silva and Sergio Aguero were menacing throughout and it was only a matter of time before the floodgates opened. Soon enough it was true as Gary Cahill’s odd clearance beat Thibaut Courtois at his far post just before half-time.
The Premier League will test Guardiola’s tactical acumen like never before.
Chelsea needed to regroup and City needed to keep a cool head. Only one of those came true as City squandered chance after chance to put the game beyond the Blues. Kevin de Bruyne was the guiltiest of the lot as he somehow managed to hit the crossbar with the goal at his mercy. The Citizens were made to pay as Diego Costa found his bearings after being isolated in the first half. Cesc Fabregas’ glorious pass was beautifully controlled by the Spaniard before being dispatched past Claudio Bravo. On another day, it would have ideally been 3-1 to City had they taken their chances, but on this crucial day when it mattered, their shooting went AWOL.
Willian needs to start over Pedro
It has been a rough two months for the Brazilian as he lost his mother and before he could come to terms with the loss, the disaster involving the Chapocoense football team arrived in quick succession. But Willian has always been admired for his tenacity and work rate for the team. His introduction for the ineffective Pedro just after half-time was a catalyst in the Blues’ success at Eastlands. Victor Moses in addition to his wing-back duties was also the only one besides Eden Hazard who attempted to make driving runs at the City defence. While Hazard had a free role, Moses had a greater share of the burden on the right side. Willian’s entry gave Guardiola something to think about as he had to deal with a dual threat of Moses and Willian, both of whom are strong runners and excellent dribblers. The double team on Costa in the first half from John Stones and Nicholas Otamendi was now under threat as Willian attempted to make inroads into the defence with Costa holding the play up. It was this approach that saw Costa releasing Willian for Chelsea’s second, although one can argue that Claudio Bravo should have made a more convincing attempt at blocking the Brazilian’s shot.
Referee Anthony Taylor has a day to forget
The referee for the game was a Manchester fan, not necessarily a City fan. But after today’s game, every City fan would be convinced that he was not a City supporter. The referee did not consider David Luiz’s block on Sergio Aguero when the Argentinian was clean through on goal as a red card offence. He added salt to the wound by waving away penalty claims when Ilkay Gundogan was tripped inside the Chelsea penalty box, although the German did not make any attempt to contest this which may have suggested that he made a meal of the challenge from the Chelsea player.
Referee Anthony Taylor lost control of the game.
At one point so incensed was Pep Guardiola that he gave a sarcastic laugh and flashed a thumbs up to the referee when a decision went his team’s way. However, the Spaniard can have no complaints against the referee when he decided to send off both Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho after the duo let their emotions get the better of them deep into second half stoppage time that ensured that a superb match ended on a sour note.
While Chelsea can now look forward to fixtures that are outside the top 6, City will need to go back to the drawing board and find a way to convert their dominance into goals or risk losing the race for the title.
Editorial by Khel Now-Feature Columnist Srinivasan Mohan , Srinivasan Mohan is an ardent football fan from the Silicon Valley of India, Bangalore. He holds a Bachelors Degree in Engineering and an MBA in Marketing. He has been following football since 2000 and is an ardent Bayern Munich and Chelsea supporter. He has had stints with Goal.com and 90Minutes magazine. Srini as he is commonly know, is someone who loves writing on the Bundesliga and is also fascinated by Serie A. Apart from writing, he spends his time drumming, reading, and working out.