After a crushing loss against Chelsea on Saturday, Manchester City are now four points off first and is 4th on the table with 30 points through 14 matches. The second defeat of the year for City came in awful fashion, as Antonio Conte’s side climbed back from a one-goal deficity when City were dominating to pull ahead and ultimately prove their dominance in the Premier League.
There were problems on both sides of the pitch, but City could’ve won the game had they put away their chances. Here’s a look at strengths and signs from the match:
During the first half, City mounted the attack high in Chelsea territory and had opportunities, but Chelsea usually cleared or City missed their shots. On one instance in the 30th minute, David Luiz shoved Sergio Agüero to the ground after he was in a foot race to the ball, and Anthony Taylor did not call it. There was intent to take out Agüero, though, and Taylor should have shown Luiz a red for preventing a clear goal scoring opportunity. However, Chelsea succumbed to the pressure, and Gary Cahill scored an own goal while trying to make an awkward clearance to deservedly put City up 1-0.
Ironically, Cahill ended up as City’s best finisher on the day, as neither Agüero nor Kevin de Bruyne could put the ball into the back of the net. City’s best chance came in the 57th minute when Jesus Navas made a third man run off the right wing and crossed a ball across the six yard box, which ended up at De Bruyne’s feet. But somehow the Belgian couldn’t finish from three yards out and hit the bar to keep the score at 1-0.
Eventually, Chelsea scored three unanswered goals and won the three points, but Sergio Agüero lost all bearings at the final seconds of added time and decided to lunge into David Luiz on a leg-crunching tackle. He deservedly saw a straight red, and now the Argentine striker is facing a four-match ban for his second red card of the season.
Third man runs off the right side of the pitch worked wonders for City, as that is how they created most of their chances. Basically, third man runs are when a player runs down the pitch with the ball, dragging a center-back with him. This player passes it out to another player who flanks off the wing, and the center-back is forced to leave the box and defend the cross in. This leaves players in the box on little coverage, and the defense has trouble dealing with crosses into the box.
Leroy Sané and De Bruyne showed their prowess on wing play and created many chances for City. However, these chances don’t mean much if no one can put the ball into the back of the net. Terrible.
Although City succeeded at Pep’s pass back play, Chelsea manipulated the defense with a few through balls and deadly counter-attack play, and the center-back trio struggled to get back on time to defend. Nicolas Otamendi had a sitter, as he could’ve seen a red card early for a studs-up tackle. He also had a nightmare while attempting to defend Diego Costa, as the striker won a through ball from midfield, shrugged off Otamendi with his strength and composedly finished to tie up the match.
John Stones and Aleksandar Kolarov looked confident on the ball and had excellent passing ability, but they also could not track back and defend against counters. Pep Guardiola needs to stop playing three at the back, as he should keep Otamendi and Stones in the center and play Kolarov on the left and Bacary Sagna on the right.
Gaël Clichy does not deserve a starting spot, as he was shredded by Victor Moses and Willian after he was subbed on for Sané. City need a strong, yet quick center-back who can play Pep’s style of football (Virgil van Dijk) instead of more wingers who sit in Pep’s rotation. John Stones was a good transfer, but he isn’t too strong or fast. Maybe a cheeky winter transfer could see this fortune.
The world-class manager has led City this year, but his decisions today were quite questionable.
Three at the Back
Once again, Pep Guardiola played 3 center-backs in defense without any full-backs, leaving the trio for dead after Chelsea exposed them with wing play and fantastic through balls. If Pep wants to push up defenders into the opposing half, he should have more than one man back to defend counter attacks. Put Kolarov at left-back to move up the pitch and create chances, and put Bacary Sagna up to right-back. He may be 33 years old, but the French defender has plenty of talent on the right side, especially when playing on the same side as quick wingers like Raheem Sterling or Leroy Sané. This will leave Otamendi and Stones back to play comfortably when passing back or defending against the counters.
Guardiola’s first substitution came in the 69th minute when Clichy came on for Leroy Sané, which was seemingly to park the bus and keep the 1-1 result. However, the decision immediately backfired when Willian got past the Frenchman and slotted home a goal a minute later to put Chelsea up 2-1. I don’t understand what Pep was thinking. City were still creating chances up the field, and Sané had his best game in the City kit so far. There was no reason to take him out, as City were still pressng even at 1-1.
To make matters worse, Ilkay Gundogan came off for Yaya Touré in the 76th minute. Gundogan was creating chances for City with his passes toward the box, and Yaya made no impact on the game. He did not seem to be on pace with everyone else on the pitch, and he had trouble running up and down the pitch to protect City at the back. He has a much lower work rate than Gundogan, and he seemed to lack determination throughout his time on the field.
Finally, in a last effort to put City level, Guardiola took off John Stones for Kelechi Iheanacho. The Nigerian striker did not influence the game much, as he never had a good chance on goal while sharing the striker slot with Agüero. It was a good warmup to get him on the field, though, as Iheanacho will retain a starting spot while Aguero serves his ban with Fernandinho, who also received a red card for violent conduct on Cesc Fàbregas.
For next week’s match against a struggling Leicester side, City should recover from yesterday’s loss and test out a new formation and new faces.