Chelsea falter against Manchester City
Chelsea and Manchester City went head-to-head at Stamford Bridge in an early-season repeat of the Champions League 2021 final.
In a true game of two halves, the first half saw Manchester City dominate the ball but offer nothing in front of goal, finding themselves frustrated by the nine men that Tuchel deployed between the ball and the goal.
Stealing a deserved yet fortunate opener just after half-time, however, Gabriel Jesus split the game wide open. Chelsea immediately looked to attack more, which in turn left more space in behind for the City attackers as the game opened up.
Ultimately though, the three points headed back to Manchester in a deserved win on the balance of play, which sees them leapfrog their opponents by virtue of goal difference and blow the title race wide open.
Here are 5 things 101 picked up from the encounter.
1. Genius at work results in tactical stalemate
For two so highly regarded managers, the first half of the game was, for a neutral, incredibly dull. Thomas Tuchel opted to field 3 across midfield in front of a defensive five, while Pep Guardiola opted for his traditional 4-3-3 with Gabriel Jesus leading the line.
0-0 at half time between Chelsea and Man City. Zero shots on target for either side. I could probably count on one hand the amount of times Chelsea left their half. 😴
— 101 Great Goals (@101greatgoals) September 25, 2021
However, the midfield trio for Chelsea, while successful in restricting the space in front of their defence, offered nothing going forwards. When the opener arrived (in a scruffy fashion that was befitting the game), a change had to be made.
However, it seemed as though Tuchel was happy to settle for a draw against the Champions from minute one.
2. Jack Grealish is proving worth the money
The 100 million pound move for Jack Grealish by Manchester City over the summer was met with more than a few raised eyebrows.
“Class from the £100m man!”
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) September 15, 2021
While Grealish is undoubtedly a top player, the price tag of 100 million pounds, a British record, was steep. However, he has already begun proving value for money.
After netting against RB Leipzig on his Champions League debut, Grealish continued to impress against Manchester City, and was unlucky not to pick up an assist.
Running against Reece James and Cesar Azpilicueta, the Englishman was unplayable, and should he continue in this vein, could be just as important as signing a striker last summer.
3. Gabriel Jesus resurrected
It seemed at one point over the summer that Gabriel Jesus’ Manchester City career was over. Linked with a move to Juventus, and with Manchester City chasing Harry Kane, he was out of the fold.
However, he has experienced a rebirth so far this season, and continued by opening the scoring at Stamford Bridge. It was not the prettiest goal that he will ever get, but it is arguably the sort of goal that Manchester City need to be scoring more often to sustain a title charge.
Can Chelsea respond? #CHEMCI
— The Athletic UK (@TheAthleticUK) September 25, 2021
His goal ensured that the Brazilian kept up an impressive record for Manchester City. In the 44 games in which he has found the net for the Citizens, they have never lost.
Should he be given a starting berth in the side going forwards?
4. Pep Guardiola ends Tuchel (and Chelsea) hoodoo
Had Pep Guardiola lost today, Thomas Tuchel would have been the first manager to beat the Spaniard with the same team four times in a row. Having seemingly been figured out by the German manager, Guardiola decided to stick to basics, fielding an orthodox side.
This was something that failed to happen in the Champions League final, where he opted for no striker and no defensive midfielder. And a return to basics seemed to do the trick for the Citizens.
Pep Guardiola has lost more games against Chelsea than any other side 👀 pic.twitter.com/ocofEmFlGd
— Goal (@goal) September 25, 2021
In the wider context of the Premier League title race, the result, combined with Manchester United’s shock defeat to Aston Villa, brings Guardiola’s side right back into contention in the early running.
On a personal note, however, this victory has to taste a little bit sweeter for the City boss.
5. A change in the Chelsea midfield hierarchy
One of the biggest perceived issues in Chelsea’s squad was a competent backup in central midfield, with N’golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho asked to cover 2 positions, or in the case of today, three.
That changed on deadline day, when the Blues added Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez to their ranks on an initial loan deal. However, after two sub-par performances from the Spaniard, it appears that he has already fallen to the fifth-choice midfield option.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) September 25, 2021
Evidence of this was provided with Tuchel’s third change, which saw Jorginho depart. However, it was not Saul that entered the fray. Rather, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who spent last season on loan at Fulham, was thrust into the heat of battle.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek comes on for Jorginho. 🔄
🔵 0-1 💠
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) September 25, 2021
With the Blues involved in multiple competitions, Saul’s time will surely come. However, for the moment he seems out in the cold.
This article was edited by Josh Barker.
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