Manchester City fell to their first defeat of the Premier League season on Saturday evening. The blues from Manchester were beaten 2-0 by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. In our tactical analysis today, we will look in depth at this Premier League encounter from a Manchester City perspective. We will highlight where the game was won and loss and in particular focus on the stark differences between the first half and the second half.
Both sides set-up without a recognised striker on the field. Chelsea started with Eden Hazard through the centre of the pitch, whereas Manchester City operated with Raheem Sterling through the middle, however part way through the first half Riyad Mahrez was moved into the middle.
Up until Kanté’s goal for Chelsea, Manchester City were dominant. Their pressing was working incredibly well and City were stifling any build-up play that Chelsea were trying to develop. Without the ball, Chelsea were set-up in a deep/medium block 4-5-1 but at times, Kanté or Kovačić would push up alongside Hazard in order to press City’s centre-halves. When this happened, City were able to move the ball quicker and bypass this pressing movement and get the ball into more dangerous positions and often isolating Jorginho with David Silva and Bernardo Silva operating around him.
Manchester City were able to generate a few chances and probably should have taken the lead in the first half.
As Manchester City did many times in the first half, they managed to effectively press Chelsea and win the ball back in a dangerous area. Fernandinho tackles Jorginho and suddenly, Manchester City are in on Chelsea’s back four. With potential runners in behind.
Manchester City quickly turned their turnover into a 5v4 with the Chelsea back four running towards their own goal. With Mahrez and Sane breaking in behind, Sterling is able to dribble and carry the ball towards Chelsea’s box.
As the Chelsea defenders have dropped, space has opened up on the edge of the area.
Raheem Sterling is able to drop into that space and is picked out by David Silva. Sterling somewhat scuffed his finish when he should have really hit the back of the net.
This was Manchester City’s best opening in the first half. Although City had the lion’s share of the ball, they at times found it difficult to break down Chelsea’s block. It took until the 44th minute for Chelsea to have a shot and it proved to be a decisive one.
In this position, Manchester City are set up fairly well. The Manchester City forwards are cutting off all of the short passes for David Luiz and any short pass he could make would put them under pressure. Luiz takes the good and clever option to look to switch the play.
David Luiz’s ball finds Pedro and Chelsea have managed to bypass Manchester City’s midfield press and most importantly, the ball is goal-side of Fernandinho. Another side-effect of David Luiz’s switch of play is that there are now huge distances between the defence and the midfield and attack, something which Manchester City can’t recover from.
Kyle Walker has been caught ahead of the ball too far and Willian is in-behind him. Eden Hazard runs away from Willian, taking both Stones and Laporte with him, opening some space for Willian. Below is a better image of the effect that Luiz’s switch of play had.
We can see that four of City’s players are taken completely out of the game in Chelsea’s half. Pedro, Hazard and Willian are goal-side of Fernandinho and have license to move at will. Kyle Walker’s poor positioning is further highlighted here. While the ball has been in flight, Willian has been on the move while Walker was ball-watching.
As Chelsea work themselves into an advantageous position, Fernandinho drops into City’s back four and the rest of the midfield and attack are caught ahead of the ball. This leaves a huge space on the edge of the box for Hazard to pull the ball back into and for Kanté to move into. Leroy Sané is caught sleeping slightly and Chelsea take advantage.
In the second half, Manchester City really struggled to gain back control of the game and Chelsea grew in stature. One aspect of the game that changed was the way in which Chelsea tried to build the play. Kanté played closer and closer to the touchline on Chelsea’s right-hand side and Manchester City were unable to deal with it.
Azpilicueta was regularly able to receive the ball in his right-back position, clip the ball down the line to either Pedro or Kanté and Fabian Delph always seemed to be half a yard away. Whoever received the ball was then able to turn it inside and Chelsea were in behind Manchester City’s first wave of pressure. Below is a perfect example.
Bernardo Silva, David Silva and Leroy Sané are all pressing as they should but Kanté intelligently moves towards the wing in order to be able to receive a pass.
Once Kanté receives the ball, due to Pedro holding his high position, he is able to turn with Fabian Delph too far away to make a challenge. Kanté can move the ball into Pedro and Chelsea are in a dangerous position.
In the example above, Delph has been forced to press Azpilicueta and this has left space for Kanté to move into. Once Kanté receives the ball, he can again turn and dribble, leaving seven Manchester City players ahead of the ball.
This game was certainly an interesting one. In the first half, Manchester City looked their usual self but perhaps lacking that cutting edge. This is to be expected given the fact they were missing their star centre-forward in Sergio Agüero. The goal just before half-time seemed to really rattle the blues from Manchester and although they still had a lot of the ball in the second half, Chelsea were the more dangerous side.
From a Manchester City point of view, there won’t be too much cause for concern. On another day, City go into half-time 1-0 or 2-0 and probably walk away with a comfortable victory. However, one thing did become apparent, the importance of Sergio Agüero. Gabriel Jesus can’t seem to buy a goal at the minute and City looked somewhat toothless without Agüero yesterday. With a favourable fixture list over the next few weeks until Liverpool travel to the Etihad in the New Year, Manchester City would be expected to bounce back quickly in order to keep pace with their rivals from Merseyside.
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