While driving through our motorway system yesterday, the feeling wouldn’t go away that all would not be well when City paraded themselves at Stanford Bridge. We had seen Chelsea taken apart by Tottenham and fail to beat Wolves, so the signs should have been there that this was a match that was up for grabs. It was, but it was for Chelsea and not City.
Susan had smugly listened to Liverpool dismantle Bournemouth 4-0, four chances four goals, with Salah in electric form. So City knew what was needed to overcome Chelsea who are never an easy proposition on home territory.
I wasn’t 100% in tune with the selection which was pretty much 4-6-0, although we could recognise a 4-3-3 connotation to it, it looked to me as though no one would have striking duties, it was pretty much everyone in a forward position.
Last week, I asked if anyone could get City out of second gear. Here was the answer. City went on to dominate the first half, running at all angles, but as the chances fell to Sterling, Sane and Bernardo, none of them were clinical enough. Chelsea got one chance as the half went into stoppage time. Luiz, a pantomime character at Wembley a couple of weeks ago, spotted Pedro out wide right. He played a Laporte-esque pass over the top of Delph and into Pedro’s path which Delph couldn’t deal with. Meanwhile on the left Willian set off at great pace taking the day-dreaming Walker by surprise. Pedro’s ball to him caused panic in the City ranks and as is always the case, the bounces all favoured Chelsea. Willian’s ball in came off Fernandinho, who didn’t really need to be there and confused Laporte and Stones, it finally fell to Hazard who threaded an incredible pass through a needle’s eye to locate Kante who was much quicker to the ball than the supposed jet-heeled Sane. Bang. 1-0 Chelsea.
This now swung things in the hosts’ favour and all they had to do was what they had seemingly done effectively in the first half. Pres or counter-press City and defend in numbers. And they did this with consummate ease against a side unable to create a chance until a tame shot from De Jesus just about tested Arrizabalaga at an easy height.
Chelsea scored a second from a corner, where for some reason, Luiz was able to go walkabout in the box to score a header from an unlikely angle and unmarked. City were the architects of their own downfall and FC Coachbusters of Shamfield today sit at the top of the table, the only unbeaten side in the division.
Chelsea got away with it in the first half. Sterling failed to convert a relatively easy chance. The front or middle six all ran riot except David Silva who may have been playing lame, as he left in the second half holding a hamstring. Kante pocketed him in the first half.
But you look at the Scousers – four shots, four goals. Chelsea two shots, two goals. City – a proliferation of possession, and chances…nul points.
A disappointing day at the office, for me commencing by not selecting de Jesus. At least he is a recognised striker and may well have taken the kind of chances falling to Sterling and Sane. The difference is that without Aguero City lack a finisher. Sterling and Sane and Silva and Silva may be goalscorers, but Sergigol is a finisher. That is what City missed today. They should really hunt a plan-B striker down. We remember Edin Dzeko. He never could really command a full first-team place, but when he came and you needed a goal, he got you one. City have learned to deal with 4-5-1 defences. It is not new. Hughes deployed it in the famous title-winning match in 2012. City overcame that with a goal from the ubiquitous Dzeko and then their masterclass finisher, Aguero. The Pedmachine rests his case.