Whether it have been a five goal thrashing or a fortuitous and somewhat slender victory over Chelsea, only an away win would have been enough to have given City supporters the slightest glimmer of hope that a title may still exist after all. However as it was it was Chelsea who continued to do what they do so well, comfortably dispatching City at Stamford Bridge with a 2-1 win. Two goals from the in-form Eden Hazard, a player heavily linked Roth Real Madrid in recent weeks proved enough with a rebounded effort from Sergio Aguero that originally came from a David Silva shot on the counter attack meanwhile proved only a consolation for Guardiola’s side. With all goals coming within the first hour of the game, City weren’t at their best and never really looked like scoring despite their superior second half possession. And with Chelsea willing to sit back and soak up the pressure with a defensive line bolstered by the inclusion of Nemanja Matic in place of Kurt Zouma for the second half, it proved a satisfying win for Antonio Conte’s side who continue to lead the way at the top of the table.
As for City, if it wasn’t already the Premier League title race is well and truly over for this season. Although anything is possible in football, it always looked as if Chelsea’s slip up to Crystal Palace last weekend was going to be a one off and if anything the slightest flicker of a chance for the likes of City and Tottenham Hotspur to then apply some pressure. However Wednesday nights game was key for both sides; an indication of just there both sides are at at this moment in time and perhaps what needs addressing in the summer. For Chelsea it was business as usual even with a makeshift back three or five (however you wish to view it) and as for City, it was same old, same old with the usual suspects and areas of the pitch once again coming under fire. Nonetheless City fans and hierarchy will surely accept this as a transition, an effort to take the club from the past and into the present with positive, glowing signs blossoming on and off the pitch. Changes will inevitably be made but the best the club can hope for now is to ensure a top four finish and if last night’s showing is anything to go by, you do think that in only narrowly losing to Chelsea that City have every chance of Champions League football once again next season.
No matter when or where there’s a football match of such magnitude, there is often many talking points to mull over once the dust has settled. With this in mind @ASelbyInfo looks at the five things that Pep Guardiola and City supporters alike will have learned from Chelsea 2-1 Manchester City.
Up and down, fast then flat – problems with City’s intensity
When you hear commentators talk about City bring up and down, it often either refers to City’s league form or the nature of the club’s fullbacks and wingers with regards to what’s expected of them during a match. Yet not only last night but also against Arsenal last Sunday and on several occasions this season, maintaining such a high intensity throughout the course of ninety minutes has proved difficult for the club. Inevitably such a hard working style of play will always be difficult to maintain to its optimum level and therefore quiet patches will arise. However in several games where City, like they regularly did too under Pellegrini start the game brightly, just when you think once City take advantage of such an energetic start by scoring and then going on to comfortably win the game by a fair few goals, that spark quickly dies out leaving City supporters frustrated as the opposition slowly but surely creeps back into the game.
This not only leaves City fighting to hold on to a lead with a defence which is nowhere near the level which Guardiola will want next season but as a result City’s attacks become limited leaving the likes of Aguero, Sané and Sterling isolated up front with their attacking abilities going to waste. Hopefully this will be something that clicks in time as far too many points are being lost due to City’s inability to maintain such high levels of performance throughout an entire game as even though the time always endeavour to keep up with the often frantic style of play when City set up the way they do, their complacency soon shows when Guardiola’s men go behind and what could easily have been a cricket score ends in a draw or even worse, defeat.
Stones is in good Kompany with Vincent in defence
Pinch me I’m dreaming – captain fantastic Vincent Kompany back in the City starting XI in arguably one of the more if not most demanding games of the season? Yes you’re right, at long last after an injury plagued season, despite reports suggesting that the Belgian has been fit for several weeks now, only on Wednesday evening was Vincent Kompany recalled to the first team fold by Pep Guardiola to partner John Stones at the heart of the City defence. Whilst his return to action may not have ended as he would have wanted, whether it be physically or just psychologically you certainly feel that bit more happy seeing Kompany back on the pitch. A natural leader, with Kompany in defence City looked much more organised and settled at the back with the Belgian taking the place of the often rash Nicolas Otamendi.
Calm, collected and a wise decision maker, even in spite of a rare yellow card yesterday evening Kompany’s partnership with Stones is the duo with Blues fans have been wishing to see for some time. Alongside Kompany, Stones has the platform to develop even further with a perfect defensive partner to suit his style of play – one capable of filling in behind him as Stones charges forward. Here’s hoping his injury woes are behind him and that Kompany can keep fit for the rest of the season.
Willy be first choice goalkeeper next season? Hopefully not.
Even eight months on, Pep Guardiola’s decision to get rid of Joe Hart in favour of bringing in Claudio Bravo last summer continues to be in the spotlight. Had it all gone to plan for Bravo perhaps not but given Hart’s consistency for City as one of the club’s most loyal servants in its recent, more successful history, pundits and supporters alike still take to different media platforms to lament the decision of letting Hart join Torino, ultimately leaving the Englishman in an untenable position where a return to City looks highly unlikely this summer – even if Guardiola was willing to swallow a slice of humble pie. Inevitably when it comes to conceding goals, it’s the goalkeeper that will always come under scrutiny even if it’s because of a defensive error which leads to the clear cut chance in the first place.
However during Wednesday evening’s defeat you do have to look closely at City’s now first choice goalkeeper Willy Caballero and his efforts in keeping out both of Chelsea’s goals and whether there is real room to suggest that the Argentine shot stopper could have done better. For the first Hazard goal, although commentators suggested the presence of Kompany and a possible deflection of his head may have impeded Willy’s vision in making a save, for the second there’s no doubt that with a stronger hand and quicker reactions to respond to the rebound, what later proved to be Chelsea’s winner may well not have gone in. For this reason alongside the numerous goalkeepers linked with City since the turn of the year, a change of goalkeeper looks imminent and all things considered would surely be the correct decision for the club going forward.
Anything that you can do, City can’t yet do better.
It may be Joe Hart who is more infamously known for his starring role in a television advert for shampoo but against Chelsea, Antonio Conte’s side were clearly head and shoulders above a Manchester City side aspiring to be in the same position as they are. Between both sides there are several parallels, from the players Chelsea have loved and consequently lost, de Bruyne as well as the club’s widely rumoured attempts two seasons ago to bring in John Stones, to the similarities in both clubs defensive setups, style of play and ambitions to be considered two of the biggest clubs in world football both on and off the pitch.
In Chelsea’s last league match against Guardiola’s men, what was a fiercely contested football match on the pitch soon descended into Wrestlemania; chaotic and unsavoury scenes which marred Chelsea’s significant victory taking Conte’s team from mere title contenders to the front runners ever since for the Premier League trophy. However at Stamford Bridge, at full back Chelsea looked far more well drilled and subsequently superior. In goal, even in spite of Courtois’ misplaced pass gifting City’s first goal, I’m sure any City fan would happily take the Belgian over the club’s current options. In the Chelsea midfield N’Golo Kante would be an upgrade on Fernandinho and although City’s attacking three is often exciting, full of speed, flair and acceleration, right now you have to say Diego Costa, Pedro and Eden Hazard are perhaps the better players. City have the potential to be as good or even better than Chelsea in the future but in both fixtures, it’s therefore understanding why Chelsea have come out on top on both occasions.
The man, the mystery and the surprisingly marvellous Fabian Delph
Following Delph’s arrival at Manchester City, many suggested that his purchase was merely to act as a squad filler or to help the club meet the number of required homegrown players in the club’s squad. Whilst this has largely proven to be the case, when called upon however Fabian Delph has certainly rose to the occasion and against Chelsea this was no exception. Just like Kompany’s inclusion in the City starting XI, seeing Delph in the club’s lineup against Chelsea came as a surprise to many. However with Guardiola opting to go for two in midfield behind Sané, Silva and De Bruyne in roaming, attacking positions as well as to leave out Fernando and Yaya Toure, Delph was therefore the best option for City to maintain some much needed stability at the centre of the pitch against a Chelsea side capable of dominating the game in midfield.
In given the task of marshalling the midfield and breaking up play as Chelsea went forward, a difference in class to the likes of Ilkay Gundogan, Kante or even Fernandinho at his very best was evident. Nonetheless in terms of grit, determination and a drive to show he is deserving of his role at one of the biggest clubs in Europe, Delph impressed – going toe to toe with Diego Costa and often frustrating the Spanish forward into a frustrated figure he’s largely cast aside this season. Therefore just as it looked as if Delph would be the first of an exodus of City players leaving the club this summer, his performance against Chelsea would suggest however that he could well have a future at the club and it will certainly be interesting to see just how Pep both rotates his midfield and uses Fabian Delph for the remaining league and cup matches this season.