Manchester City 2 Chelsea 0 : Story Of A Match
Blogger, philosopher, lifelong mate, never wants a passer-by to pass him by. Blogging at www.holtamania.com on all things Norwich and here with monthly Story of a Match pieces, bre...
Manchester City kept their Premiership hopes alive with a 2-0 win at home over Chelsea on Sunday. Today on our blog Matt Wallace dissects the match with his tactical analysis.
Man City and Chelsea are both trying to save their seasons. Dumped out of the Champions League and drifting in the league, Chelsea are in limbo, desperately trying to maintain a top four position while they wonder which manager to sack next. Their hosts, Man City, are in a fight they’ve likely already lost, drifting further and further behind their cross-city rivals. They met on Sunday in a match both needed to win.
Benitez continued his habit of not playing Chelsea’s trio of playmakers, with Oscar settling for the bench and Ramires selected to give some sort of stability. Ba replaced Torres up front. For Man City, Jack Rodwell got a surprise start alongside Javi Garcia.
One thing that became clear in a first half that Man City were clearly on top in was the versatility of their attackers, even though their play was a little predictable. From the average positions below you can see that, despite starting on the left, Silva was more central/right than Toure.
Milner was tucked inside, Rodwell was more advanced and the result is a bunching of players in the middle. This is because they were popping up everywhere, yet the majority of City’s attacks were coming down the left hand side. So in one moment it would be Toure threading a ball through to Clichy, the next it would be to Silva, and the next to Milner.
This fluidity helped keep Chelsea on the back foot, as they weren’t sure who to properly prepare for, or who their midfielders should mark.
Silva and Milner
As you can see from the passes received from the two City wingers, both were picking up balls all over the pitch. This is the sort of flexibility found under Chelsea when they play their triumvirate of number 10’s, but since the introduction of Benitez they have become more orthodox, with players sticking to their positions.
It is a sign of the growing confidence in Milner, especially, who is having a good season, that he is trusted to roam with the same sort of freedom as Silva. So with the City attacks coming through roughly the same area of the pitch, but via different players, it was tough for Chelsea to get set into their own gameplan and get on the front foot.
The Left Side
In fact, they didn’t just put most of their attacks down the left, but they pressed there too. Below you can see the number of passes to the keeper Chelsea attempted, and the majority came from that position where a player, usually Rodwell or Toure, would play high on Ivanovic or mark Ramires and stop a pass coming out of defence.
The result was a ball played back and then long to Ba. It gave city a far better chance of winning it back and stopped Chelsea building possession. So, if Ramires was picked to help give cover and he was playing on the right, what was he getting up to?
The answer is not a lot. Ramires had a quiet game. He made a couple of clearances but failed in all of his tackles , and generally was left wondering which player to track. Ivanovic got little help.
Despite City’s strengths, they could nearly have gone behind due to Joe Hart. Or they didn’t go behind, because of Joe Hart. It depends on your point of view, I guess, but Hart gave away the penalty he subsequently saved, and it proved key. Chelsea would have been undeserving leaders, but the momentum from the penalty save helped spur City on and they continued to press.
It was no surprise when they finally did go ahead, through Toure, and from a passage of play that went down the left hand side. His finish was as cool as you like, and showed the sort of attacking thrust they lacked during his brief absence.
Rodwell and Garcia
One of the riskier moves by Mancini was the pairing of Rodwell with Garcia, going up against a couple of superb playmakers in Hazard and Mata.
While Garcia quite clearly did his job, recording blocks, tackles and clearances, it was a quieter game defensively for Rodwell. He’s not got as much gametime as he’d have liked since his summer move from Everton, and many will hope the move works out for him, but on the strength of the performance there is a reason he’s been lower down the pecking order. He still has a bit to learn.
Conversely, Frank Lampard is a player who has sort of drifted into a deeper role with Chelsea as father time takes it out of his legs. While he isn’t the player he used to be, ranging box to box, his new found niche as part of a deep pair that provides the passing next to Mikel’s defensive ability has done him well.
Yet there does need to be a bit more from Lampard when it comes to the defensive side of the game. Both City goals came from moves that developed outside the area, parts of the pitch he would be expected to be, yet his defensive contribution was pretty poor.
This isn’t to put the blame on him – Ivanovic was pretty cowardly in the second goal and there are plenty of others to defend too. It just bears keeping in mind.
One final thing to note was the complete ineffectiveness of Ba. He started ahead of Torres after the Spaniard continues to struggle, notably in Europe midweek, but Ba was marked out of the game on Sunday.
Admittedly, he didn’t get a great deal of service, and many of the balls into him were long, rangy ones that he had to work hard to win, but he made very little use of the possession he did get and seemed to just want to be the spearhead without doing much else. That’s fine when you’re getting service, but if not then he might want to pull his weight a bit more and go looking for it. If that was Torres putting in that performance, he’d have been slated.
The Final Word
All in all, a 2-0 City win was more than deserved. They were on top for the majority of the game and were able to bring on players of quality, like Tevez who blasted in the second from range.
The question going forward is about the hunger of the players – with the title as good as lost, will the fight be there to keep momentum going and seal second place? Or will some already be mentally on the beach. Time will tell.
To read more of Matt's work, visit his blog Holtamania.com
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Both Ba and Ramires were unusually poor yesterday. City won the midfield battle and with a class act like Yaya the ball flows much better. They did miss him in January.
In the end, very deserved three points. That penalty would have been injustice at its best.