Manchester City came to Stamford Bridge hoping to extend their unbeaten run to 16 games this season. After an away defeat to Wolves in the midweek fixture, Chelsea was trying to regain momentum. None of the pundits or the fans gave Chelsea any chance but a defensive masterclass from Maurizio Sarri stunned everyone.
The first half was dominated by City. They controlled possession and tactics. Chelsea was employing a strange press, whereas City got further up the field as they backed off more and more. Chelsea’s defensive block was at its finest too and it kept City from being able to penetrate, not to mention an even better ability to pass it out.
We all know about the passing of David Luiz and it was on full display yesterday. Right before half-time, he played a world-class diagonal ball to Pedro, who played another diagonal to Willian.
Willian, combining with Eden Hazard, cut the ball back to N’Golo Kante who smashed it in. Kante was only able to receive the ball because Leroy Sane had completely switched off. He had a few good moments in the first half, the German, but by the 54th minute, he was taken off after a bad performance.
In the second half, it was reasonable to expect Manchester City to try and frustrate Chelsea; to be the better side. It turned out completely differently, though. City was completely outclassed in the second half. They tried to keep up, Gabriel Jesus came on and they started to combine, but nothing threatening. Their biggest second-half chances all came from Chelsea giveaways at the back.
The lack of creativity by City in this game is what will have Pep Guardiola most upset. The team did not have enough imagination to break down Chelsea’s defense. There weren’t any moments where either David Silva or Bernardo Silva got control of the ball and made something happen. To make matters worse, David Silva was taken off holding his hamstring in the 64th minute.
Manchester City continued to leave Chelsea the space to pull completely ahead in this game and, in the 78th minute, David Luiz found the ball after a looping corner from Eden Hazard. Luiz had an equally artful header that looped into the far corner. It was 2-0 Chelsea and it stayed that way till the end, they were the better side.
Many people will point to the lack of a striker as the reason for City’s struggle. For most of the game, Riyad Mahrez played centrally and didn’t really get into the game and then, when Gabriel Jesus came on, he got it in a little, but not enough to land him hot water.
There was a reason for that: Chelsea’s midfield. N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic absolutely shut down the City midfield. They were the reason why David Silva and Bernardo Silva were unable to get on the ball and make things happen. Without those two pulling the strings, City is much easier to control, no matter who is in the front line.
Whether or not this will be replicable will remain to be seen. There is no team in the world who have a player that covers as much ground as N’Golo Kante. He is such a unique player that a system like this might not be replicable by another club and that club would be hard-pressed to keep both David Silva and Bernardo Silva under wraps for another 90 minutes.