Pep Guardiola ended his Thomas Tuchel hoodoo to inflict Chelsea’s first defeat of the 2021/22 season on Saturday as his side exacted a little bit of revenge for their Champions League final loss by winning 1-0 at Stamford Bridge.
Tuchel’s side hadn’t been playing all that well in recent games but had still managed to find a way to win. Against City, they didn’t play all that well again and this time, were well beaten.
1-0 doesn’t truly reflect City’s dominance in the game. Guardiola’s side were vastly superior in nearly all facets of the game and Chelsea were given a bit of a reality check following their previously unbeaten start.
Tuchel switched things up and went with a 3-5-2 formation, bringing in Timo Werner for the injured Mason Mount but, put simply, it didn’t work.
Werner was lively in the first half but laboured in the second while Lukaku often cut a frustrated figure thanks to a lack of service. But Chelsea’s record signing can’t be absolved of any blame either as his first touch let him down a number of times.
With N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho all playing in the midfield three, it was down to Kante to effectively be Chelsea’s creator and he consistently popped up on the wings, trying to get crosses into the box.
Guardiola and City would have loved to have seen that as it kept the Frenchman away from the middle of the park where he is at his most destructive. Kante was nowhere near his best and it wasn’t a surprise when he was withdrawn midway through the second half for Kai Havertz.
Tuchel persisted with the two up front though and it just wasn’t clicking. Far too often, Werner was dropping deep to leave the ball and Lukaku was incredibly isolated. He let Werner know it too.
That said, the German did relieve some pressure on a few occasions with some determined runs but City’s tracking back was superb throughout in transition and Werner found himself crowded out.
It wasn’t until Havertz’s introduction that Chelsea eventually began to stretch the City backline, Lukaku had a goal ruled out for offside with Havertz a good five yards ahead of the game in the build-up but there were signs of life.
Kovacic should have played a better pass as Havertz sped through the middle from another counter but his underhit pass was cut out by Ruben Dias, who was immense for he reigning champions.
It looked like one of those games where Chelsea “could have played until Christmas and not scored” if you forgive the footballing cliché. The wing-backs, so often the root of anything good for Chelsea, were far from their best.
The Blues head coach said after the game: “Nobody can deny it. We were excellent but only in the final 20 metres of the match, not the other 80.
“City made us underperform today. We lacked belief and confidence to escape. With every mistake we made we lost more and more confidence. We defended well until the goal.
“We didn’t deserve the result today and we have to accept it.
“I don’t think it is a matter of structure against City, it is about adapting to the opponents and the spaces where you can find them. We are in it together, we win together and lose together. I will also ask the question to myself if it was the right shape [to play].
Marcos Alonso is in the side for his attacking threat but barely did any of it. Cesar Azpilicueta was pushed to the wing-back role following Reece James’ injury in the first half and didn’t enjoy it up against Jack Grealish at all.
Those two had a contretemps for almost the entire game as Grealish got under the skin of the Chelsea captain who doesn’t often get rattled, but he was here.
The Blues’ first six fixtures of the season were not going to be the easiest though they managed to get through them relatively comfortably despite their middling performances, especially in the last fortnight.
Their next three games are against Southampton, Brentford and Norwich so there is a chance for them to put things right quickly.
Tuchel will demand and expect a response from his players but you suspect that the two upfront formation might not be seen for a while.
Source by Football London