Manchester City’s 6-0 mauling of Chelsea came as a surprise even to most optimistic City faithful. The Sky Blues fell to a 2-0 defeat in the first leg of the encounter at Stamford Bridge. The result suggested it was going to be a tough match at the Etihad Stadium. That much, given the Sky Blues’ capitulation at some crucial moments this season.
I mean Liverpool will not be in the title race if Man City did not lose four matches in the space of a month. A twelve or nine-point lead at this stage will be unassailable. Yet, it is what it is. The race now promises to go down to the wire. Guardiola’s men are ready for the fight and have brought their A game in recent matches as demonstrated against Everton and Chelsea.
With the London club in search of Champions League football, getting another three points against City would have been a welcome development. Apart from the bragging rights associated with such a victory, it would boost the club’s chances of attaining the goal at the end of the campaign. Although the win in the reverse fixture was Maurizio Sarri’s first taste of victory against Pep Guardiola, it was not expected to be the last.
Manchester United’s recent form has put the Blues on edge. The Red Devils have been on an eleven-game unbeaten run since club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over from José Mourinho in December. That has led to a rise from 11 points behind Chelsea back then to overtaking them on the league table.
Getting results is now a matter of urgency to keep hope alive of European football next season. But Guardiola’s men put up a spirited performance on the day subjecting the 2017 Premier League champions to a humiliating defeat. The Blues were knocked out cold with a higher dose of their own medicine and were left dumbfounded after the sound of the final whistle on Sunday.
It was a match in which Oleksandr Zinchenko stole the show.
Of course, Sergio Aguero grabbed the headlines with a hat-trick and took home both the match ball and the Man of the Match award. The margin of victory also meant attention was on the scoreline, and rightly so. But just like Aguero, the Ukrainian international gave a great performance that proved instrumental to the win.
Surprisingly, he was not supposed to feature in the match in the first place. The Ukrainian midfielder-turned left back was a surprise inclusion in the lineup. As was the case last term, however, Benjamin Mendy’s niggling injuries meant Guardiola had to look elsewhere.
Now in, Zinchenko could have been targeted as the weak link in the team. But he turned out to be one of the best players on the day for Man City.
His hardwork on and off the ball, tackles and incisive passing with an impressive 92 percent accuracy made him on of the best players on the pitch. Two assists capped off a profitable day in the office. It is a performance manager Guardiola was proud of and commended after the game.
Should Guardiola trust him more?
Maybe it’s time for the player to reconsider his position of play. The story of players changing to a different position from where they initially began their careers is a common one. The need for another left back to provide backup for the often injured Mendy means Zinchenko can be the solution to Guardiola’s problem. At just 22, he has all the time in the world to readjust to the position and become one of the best in the world.