To be honest, I thought Pep Guardiola would be under pressure for this match. On the other side, Tuchel had beaten Pep three games in a row, including the Champions League final of the last season, and the current form of Chelsea is formidable. But on the matchday, I found out Pep did prepared for this match thoroughly. Citizens had the best control over the team like Chelsea as kickoff and the players were able to fully fulfill the demands of the manager.
In the starting 11, Tuchel recaptured the midfield of Jorginho, Kovacic and Kante, who had been involved in the previous game against Spurs, but he did not seem to notice the big gap between Nuno Santos and Pep Guardiola. It looks like he tried to play counter-attack by directly ball delivery to the strikers, so Werner came out with Lukaku, creating more space for the latter one. On the other side, Pep, realizing his mistakes in the last UCL final, put defensive midfielder Rodri as the deep lying midfielder, cut the ball between Chelsea’s midfield and strikers. One thing that made Chelsea busy is Citizens’ Bernado silva, who played as advanced playmaker around the pitch.
With such a good pressing from the start, Chelsea was dominated and they had to settle down five or six players in the six-yard box and played low-block defense. However, Chelsea fans should thank to defense team and goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, he was able to keep his shape in the early minutes and his two brilliant saves denied Grealish with very solid handling from set-pieces. The injury of Reece James, who could have put 100 million worth of Grealish in his pocket at the time, had an adverse impact on their teamwork. In Chelsea gameplay, their attacking shape had always been linked with two wing backs and two strikers, so the gap of James had become significant in the last minutes of this match.
In the first minutes of the game, the influence of the City and Chelsea’s endurance made both fans a bit boring to watch. Especially at a home stadium like Stamford Bridge, defending with up to eight players entered the box and play low-block, this playstyle should not be acceptable for a title challenger. But I expected Chelsea for tactics changes as they played with Tottenham, actually they did change as my expectations, but it didn’t work much.
I don’t know who is said to be the best player in City. The whole team did their best and the coach was able to play to his heart’s content. Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte’s famous tactical fouls made it difficult for Chelsea attacking duo Timo Werner, seeking opportunities to get a goal against opponent’s defense, and Romeulu Lukaku, showed his weak ball-handling and ability as he played for United. Complete wingbacks, Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo, they both showed their best performance in the build-up play, and for me, Cancelo was the man of the match due to his unexpected crossings and amazing dribbles. In midfield, the performance of Rodri and Bernado completely sidelined European winners Jorginho and Ngolo Kante, who were trying to get line-breaking passes. It remains to be seen whether Pep has found Bernado’s best position. There are frequent interceptions between the three chelsea midfielders. He also found a lot of space with his solo abilities when starting the offensive line. It was really good.
In the 53rd minute of the match, Jesus scored the best goal from Cancelo cleverness of match reading. It was the first goal that Chelsea had conceded from open play in the league this season and it transformed the game into a furious end-to-end battle. After the goal was scored, Chelsea changed the tempo of their game and left the low-block play. After substitution for Jorginho and Kante with Kai Havertz and Ruben Loftus-cheek, the offensive line became more intensified. Loftus-cheek was much more useful than Jorginho in this match. However, the team’s attack relied heavily on Lukaku and saw the same formula used as they beat Zenit like Lukaku had to win a header six, crossed by Azpelicueta. In the late minutes, Chelsea attacked and the City waited for a mistake to start counter attacking again, but the city had a clear chance. But beyond Chelsea defense wall is Mendy. If Mendy did not show his talented golden hands in this match or if there is only one real striker in the city like Kun Aguero, the match would be done in early minutes. Chelsea only had Mendy and Kovacic deserved for credits, and this is a testament to Pep’s quality. It was a very technical match as Grealish played quietly and the rest of the midfield and attack took turns.
At the end of the match, both teams did not score again and ended up with 0-1. It was the most disfigured match of European champions Chelsea this season and there was no shot on target.
After suffering three defeats in a row to Thomas Tuchel, Pep Guardiola could finally celebrate a victory over the German at the final whistle – and a result which pulls Man City level with previously unbeaten Chelsea on 13 points in the table.
Will this result change Tuchel’s low-block rhetoric and line-up? Did this game really hurt Chelsea? Or discuss whether City players and Pep’s tactics have worked so well?