Written by Alex Honcoop
Chelsea’s visit to Manchester City early today has all the characteristics of a season defying game, even with it being this early into the season. Although Chelsea have won their last seven matches, the only other two occasions they’ve faced up against a side that will very likely finish top four, they were dominated in every aspect.
When Chelsea faced Liverpool at Stamford Bridge earlier this season, Liverpool had by far the better first half and went into the break with a 2-0 lead. Chelsea were improved in the second half but still couldn’t turn the game around losing 2-1. Against Arsenal, a similar first half although Arsenal went into the break 3-0 up which just killed the game before half time, so Chelsea will have a point to prove that they can win in big matches.
Man City on the other hand, started of brilliantly with six wins in-a-row to start the season. Since then, they have struggled for consistency. Before their two most recent encounters which have both finished 2-1 to City, they had earned just six points in their last five matches. A win for City would temporarily put them back Top of the League and would also prove a point that Chelsea aren’t unbeatable in a 3-4-3.
City’s possession Football
Especially since Pep Guardiola has been in charge, it has been quite obvious that City like to keep the ball. The acquisition of John Stones has been a key factor in this. The 22-year-old has a reputation for being a ball playing Centre-Half but this sometimes works against him. Against Southampton, a loose pass fed in Southampton Winger Nathan Redmond to make it 1-0 to the Saints. In the end, that mistake cost City the game with it ending 1-1.
City will very likely have more of the possession but however possession doesn’t necessarily win you games as we saw in the Chelsea v Tottenham game last weekend. For the majority of the first half, Spurs had far more of the possession and absolutely dominated the Midfield with the physical presence of Moussa Dembele and Victor Wanyama. With Chelsea’s very compact three-man defence, they struggled to create any good chances and when Chelsea got back in the game, they were clinical and ended up winning 2-1.
Chelsea’s three Centre-Halves
Antonio Conte’s deadline day ‘panic buy’ of David Luiz, has turned out to be a brilliant decision. When I first heard the news, I must admit I was quite sceptical given his habit of making mistakes in dangerous areas. Regardless of his past, David Luiz has been brilliant on his return. The Brazilian has been playing in the Centre of Defence and has been organising it brilliantly. With the other two Centre-Backs next to him, a mistake wouldn’t be as costly as he has more support.
With the three Centre-Backs as oppose to the standard modern day system of two, teams are finding it a lot more difficult to create chances with the only goal they have conceded in the last seven games has been a long shot from Christian Eriksen. With the tightly compact three Centre-Backs, I feel that David Silva will be a crucial player for City given the incredible accuracy of his through balls.
Diego Costa not being so isolated
Since the switch to the 3-4-3, Diego Costa’s general play has been much improved. Before-hand in the 4-1-4-1, the Spaniard seemed to be quite isolated at times. The new system has had Pedro and Hazard playing in far more advanced roles and Costa has very much benefited. Against Liverpool and Arsenal, the service to the Striker was very poor and he struggled to have an influence. Although he was scoring in the early parts of this season, I didn’t feel he was that effective but definitely has been of recent.
As mentioned above, Hazard has had a more advanced role in the new formation. Not only has he been playing further up the pitch, but his new role has given him much more freedom. With a player of Hazard’s quality, it is vital that he is playing in a role that suits him and his performances have definitely improved. Before the Middlesbrough game, five times in four matches.
For me, this match could quite easily turn out similarly to the Arsenal game. The Gunners scored two early goals and Chelsea just couldn’t find a way back into it. At the risk of sounding like a Sky Sports pundit, a couple of early goals will absolutely kill the game off. If City don’t score early, I can see Chelsea edging it either 1-0 or 2-1.
What are your predictions for this game? Let us know in the comments below!
featured image by Guts Gaming