Manchester City are back to their best against Chelsea and the rest of the Premier League should be fearful
After months of groggy performances, Manchester City have finally woken up from their football coma against Chelsea – and the rest of the Premier League should be afraid. Very scared.
The football City played in the first half of their 3-1 win over the Blues has been as devastating as anything that has been seen in the Premier League this season. They dominated their opponents in almost every measure and each of their goals was excellent.
After the first ten shaky minutes, the floodgates opened. Firstly, Joao Cancelo’s strike with the ball gave Kevin De Bruyne a clear view on goal, but the Belgian escaped in an unusual way. Chelsea would not be able to keep their opponents any longer.
With 18 minutes on the clock, Ilkay Gundogan let Oleksandr Zinchenko’s pass roll over his body, leaving Thiago Silva for dead, before shooting into the bottom corner. Less than 180 seconds later, City doubled their advantage.
This time around, De Bruyne made up for his early failure by putting one on a plate for Phil Foden. After his first effort was stifled by Kurt Zouma, he picked up the ball and made an accurate pass through Cesar Azpilicueta’s legs, finding Foden unmarked in the box making no mistakes.
With just over half an hour of play, City have put the game beyond doubt. After Hakim Ziyech’s free kick was easily dealt with by John Stones, the visitors turned defense into attack. Within seconds, De Bruyne’s clever header cleared Raheem Sterling from Chelsea’s last man, N’Golo Kante. Sterling took a while to pull the trigger and when he finally did, the bullet fired from the bar. Fortunately, De Bruyne was there to apply the finish.
The immediate reaction to this triple salvo on social media focused on Chelsea’s sieve like defense. However, while Edouard Mendy should have done better for the first two goals and questions could also be asked of Thiago Silva, Kante and a handful of others, insist that City are doing a disservice.
All three goals showed a vigor that their attacks lacked for most of the season. Sometimes City was maddening to watch. Weighing on the ball and lacking in rhythm, they sometimes seemed to want possession for possession.
In losses to Leicester and Tottenham, as well as in draws against West Ham and West Brom, they have recorded almost 70% possession or more. However, on all these occasions, they could not make their domination pay. The first half against Chelsea was another story. Although the Blues took advantage of 54% of the ball, City were the better team, moving it with speed and determination to wrap things up in just over 30 minutes.
Against Chelsea, they also demonstrated a clinical advantage that has been sorely lacking in recent times. Before their visit to Stamford Bridge, only Sheffield United had underperformed their xG worse than City. Overall, their expected goals suggested they should have scored five more times so far this season. If they had, the xG model predicted they would have three more points.
While the first half saw Guardiola’s side breaking the mold, after the break things followed a more familiar scenario with City defending brilliantly. No Premier League side have conceded fewer goals than them this season and if it weren’t for a somewhat unnatural 5-2 loss to Leicester in September, their defensive record would be even more impressive.
Against Chelsea, they continued this trend. Stones and Ruben Dias swallowed the ball like hungry hippos in the heart of City’s backline, while Zinchenko and Cancelo lost their chances.
Meanwhile, Rodri’s performance may not have been perfect, but the Spaniard broke his fair share of Chelsea attacks to make up for his early release in possession. Without a lack of focus in the 91st minute – which saw Callum Hudson-Odoi score a consolation – City would have toasted their eighth clean sheet of the season.
So what does all this mean? Well, if City are ready to combine their superb defense with an invigorated attacking phase as their display against Chelsea suggests, their rivals should be looking over their shoulders anxiously. Particularly due to the smooth running of Guardiola’s team matches in January.
It’s not hard to imagine City collecting the most points from their games against Brighton, Crystal Palace, Aston Villa, West Brom and Sheffield United over the next month and those 15 points would go a long way in bringing them back to the top of the league. Premier League. table.