Tactical analysis: how Manchester City beat Chelsea

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The Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester City was building up as a pretty big one. Before the game, the Blues only got one win in their last five Premier League matches, but almost regained their team’s full strength when Hakim Ziyech made a long-awaited comeback from his injury. City, on the other hand, were undefeated in their last six Premier League games, but with players like Ederson, Kyle Walker, Gabriel Jesus, Ferran Torres, Aymeric Laporte and a few others missing from COVID or injury, their team looked pretty good. . exhausted, so much so that Pep Guardiola named only eight substitutes, including three EDS (Elite Development Squad) players.

The game, however, turned out to be a simple walk in the park for City. They swiftly passed Chelsea with unmatched ease and a performance reminiscent of those that brought them to 100 points three years ago.

In this review, we will see what went well for them and all the things that went wrong for Chelsea.

City Possession Game

City have averaged 59.8% possession per game this Premier League season, but have often failed to do anything. Against Chelsea, however, it was a different story.

Pep Guardiola deviated from the 4-2-3-1 double pivot system he had used for most of this season, opting for a 4-3-3 with Kevin De Bruyne as a false nine. The wingers, and Raheem Sterling in particular, were instructed to stay high, preventing the Chelsea wingers from moving too far. There were no selection surprises as such, considering the City’s COVID issues.

City played the best possession-based football we’ve seen all season with that system, so that’s how it worked.

Rodri was the man in central midfield that united the City side operating between the lines and connecting defense with attack. His positioning also served to try to create openings in Chelsea’s lines, as you can see above.

‘Reversed full-backs’ have been a thing in England since Pep Guardiola came to City, and his best exponent of that seems to be João Cancelo. As is often the case, he moved to central midfield with possession, and this time Bernardo Silva moved to his right-back position.

Kevin De Bruyne had complete positional freedom, which is why he often wandered away or dropped into midfield. In such cases, İlkay Gündoğan moved into the forward position, while the winger (if De Bruyne opened) also stepped inside.

Usually one of the two wingers went in to help in midfield, while the other stayed open to provide an outlet. This way, Chelsea’s defense could be stretched, and the man who opened up would have plenty of room to work when he received the ball.

In this way, Manchester City attempted to probe Chelsea’s defenses and create openings. However, they had it quite easy, as Chelsea’s lines were very disjointed, as we will see below.

Werner’s failure at Striker

For most of this season, Frank Lampard has deployed Timo Werner on the left wing. Before this match, he had an 11-game goal drought because he always played wide, so fans were relieved to see him appear as a forward in the lineup.

This heat map is pretty damning – it shows Werner was all over the place and not exactly at the end of things. The stats back it up too – he only managed to get one shot in the entire match, and that too was deflected.

One of the main reasons for Timo Werner’s failure at center could be the fact that he has become so used to playing away from Chelsea that he was never able to get out of left winger mode.

You can see just that above: Timo Werner is out on the left with the ball. Crossing is not one of your strengths, finishing is, so you should be the one at the end of the crosses in the center, not the one delivering them. In this case, Stones easily ordered the ball for a goal kick.

In the rare cases that Chelsea managed to throw a ball into the box, it never reached the end. Check out his position and movement below: (Reminder: he’s supposed to be a forward).

Surprisingly, Werner is open and Christian Pulisic, the designated left-back, is located in the center. However, this is still understandable as Werner has a fair amount of room for him as he is unmarked and can attack the cross as he enters.

… Or maybe not.

Manchester City were the team without a recognized striker on the field for most of the match, but Kevin De Bruyne and İlkay Gündoğan did a stellar job of masking that problem. Chelsea, on the other hand, had a previously prolific forward on the field throughout the match, but failed to provide a focal point for the team with less possession, making it almost as if they were missing a forward.

Chelsea opening

Despite all the skillful passing and perfect possession by City, they never would have imagined that they would have so many chances in the match. However, Chelsea were so open on defense that you wouldn’t be too surprised to see West Brom put three ahead of them at half.

This instance does a great job of showing just how terribly disconnected the Blues were. City have simply moved the ball from left to right and have an acre of room to work on the wing (blank). Also, their midfield is so far apart – Mason Mount and Mateo Kovačić are nowhere near N’Golo Kanté – so there is an enormous amount of space within the midfield (in black). A coach under 13 would probably be furious if he saw his team in this state.

Chelsea frantically moved to their left to try to close this area, but in doing so they left large spaces in the mid-spaces, which City did not need to be invited to exploit, as both João Cancelo and Kevin De Bruyne sought to combine using that opening. . .

The problems that led to the first game began when Rodri was allowed to have a complete zip code for himself in the center of the park. Also, notice the aforementioned move by Kevin De Bruyne to the left this time, which sees Phil Foden drift into the frame and İlkay Gündoğan operate as a forward. These movements allowed Oleksandr Zinchenko to get ahead and overlap on the left flank.

Chelsea’s miserable joke about an attempt to defend continued after Zinchenko threw the ball at Foden, who, along with Gündoğan, had a healthy amount of space (extremely unhealthy if you’re Chelsea) between the lines that allowed both of them to spin. and the second. to shoot, located in the lower corner.

The second goal was another result of the lack of cohesion between Chelsea’s lines. His 4-3-3 form is quite visible, but the problem is that N’Golo Kanté has outgrown his role as a midfield, leaving a lot of space between the lines. That results in just one thing: even more exploitation by Kevin De Bruyne.

Kevin De Bruyne has too much space in the attacking third with the ball, and that only means danger. He has all the time in the world to make a direct pass to Phil Foden, and when the ball breaks for him again higher up the field, his cross and Foden’s precise shot make it 2-0.

And then comes that chaotic third goal. The less we talk about it, the better for Chelsea fans, so let’s leave the conversation with this image:

Have you seen anything similar lately? Of course you have:


Manchester City turned the years back in an exhilarating display of the highest quality football despite arriving at Stamford Bridge with a frazzled squad, while Chelsea simply couldn’t touch them. Pep Guardiola did everything right: his tactics, staff and decision making, while the Cityzens on the field operated at the highest level. Happy times for those in sky blue.

However, that cannot be said of pensioners. The way Chelsea played was quite shocking for a team many labeled title challengers just a month ago, and Frank Lampard has even more questions to answer, including some serious ones about his job.

Statistics courtesy whoscored.com

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