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Man City 1-0 Chelsea: Five things we learned

The Silvas combine to score 35 seconds into the second half in Manchester City’s 1-0 win over Chelsea in Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

Sergio Aguero dragged defenders with his movement and played a pass to David Silva who put in a cross to the far post. Bernardo Silva caught Marcos Alonso on his heels, and the City winger kicked the cross in for the goal past Thibaut Courtois.

The 1-0 scoreline doesn’t reflect the dominance of Man City, leaving Chelsea with zero shots on target for the whole match. One goal was enough to get the win, but City did more than “just enough” to earn the result.

Here are five things we learned from City’s commanding performance over Chelsea.

Kante-sized hole in Chelsea setup

Leaving Eden Hazard to lead the line for the Blues signified similar tactics to the match against Barcelona. Pedro and Willian are playing as forwards once again, but they’ve been tasked to drop back and help in defence. It worked well against Pep Guardiola’s former club as Chelsea’s counterattacks were effective in the Champions League tie.

Sunday’s match against Man City was a different story as N’Golo Kante fell ill just before matchday, and his presence was clearly missing in the midfield.

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Despite defending deep, Kante disrupted Barcelona’s attacks to win the ball higher up the pitch, allowing Chelsea’s forwards to attack with pace. The Blues would have less opponents in front of them, and the game was more open. A midfield of Cesc Fabregas and Danny Drinkwater is much easier to penetrate, especially for a powerhouse squad like Man City’s.

When Chelsea would regain possession on Sunday, they were far deeper in their own half, with many City players pressuring them. In fear of losing the ball in dangerous positions, Chelsea’s only option was to fire long balls to the striker. Hazard can’t win these duels against bigger defenders, so Chelsea lose possession anyway.

Choosing to stick to these tactics despite Kante being unavailable is why Chelsea could not even attempt a shot in the first half. Antonio Conte’s reluctance to play some riskier football against Man City put the final nail in the coffin for the result, and maybe in his Chelsea career. A different strategy may have not changed the result, but Chelsea needed to play to win rather than hold for a draw, especially since a loss meant Chelsea sit five points back from fourth place.

 

City perfect despite only scoring one

The home team were completely dominant on and off the ball, and they didn’t even break a sweat in the process.

Man City enjoyed a whopping 71% possession, and only conceding three shots, all of which were off target. They were able to control the tempo of the match. Players like Leroy Sane could kick it up another gear by dribbling at pace, or they could slow the game down to a standstill, especially when they took the lead.

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Guardiola didn’t even make a substitution until late in the match at the 85th minute, and he didn’t really need to make a change for most of the match. Everything was clicking for City, and the manager didn’t need to fix what wasn’t broken. His players didn’t show any fatigue, and Chelsea didn’t have an answer to anything.

The champions elect showed why they’re one of the best Premier League teams in history by shredding the current champions.

 

Frustration boiling over

It seems like it’s time to bail out of the West London club before the empire stumbles out of the top four.

A lot of Conte’s praise from last season stemmed from the fact that he put Hazard in a role where he can play to the best of his abilities. The Italian coach freed him from defensive responsibilities under Jose Mourinho, and the Belgian was free to play behind the striker in a creative role.

The loss of Diego Costa and the bad form of Alvaro Morata has Conte putting Hazard into a role that doesn’t suit him yet again as the main focal point. It’s getting harder for Hazard and Chelsea to start an attack. On the rare chance that Hazard could make a run in this match, poor service from his teammates led Hazard shaking his head in shame.

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His substitution in the 90th minute was met with a direct walk to the bench without acknowledging Conte with a handshake or even a look. Hazard just wants to play good football, and his role limits him from doing so.

This situation comes at the worst time as Chelsea and Hazard are in the midst of negotiating a new contract. I wouldn’t be surprised if the superstar is more inclined to find a way out of this hot mess. Chelsea may need to do everything in its power to keep Hazard happy, and that may include showing Conte the door.

 

Protect the players

Guardiola made a statement in January, pleading to referees to protect the players after Sane was injured in an FA Cup match against Cardiff City. The physical nature of the game is putting players’ health at risk.

At the same time, his players made dangerous tackles that went largely unpunished. Yellow cards to Oleksandr Zinchenko and Ilkay Gundogan were not enough for their studs-up tackles that left Victor Moses and Hazard on the ground clutching in pain. Both were lucky to get away with simple bookings while being allowed to continue.

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While teams need to do what they can to get the win, officials need to control the match to prevent these things from happening, and the officials allowed City to go unpunished.

 

This is underperforming, not lack of support

Conte has complained throughout the season that he didn’t get the players he wanted in the transfer windows, and it’s affecting the form of the team.

However, these are not terrible players. Chelsea have some of the best individual players in England and Europe. Chelsea have one of the biggest wage bills, and they’re not paying bad players.

The problems stem from players not playing up to par, and tactics not working. It’s up to the manager to make adjustments within the team, and Conte has made bad choices throughout the season.

There is no lack of support from the board. Roman Abramovich has provided Conte with a team that many managers dream of having. Failure should be blamed on Conte for not being able to achieve with the team that he has. They’re better than fifth place, but that’s where Conte finds himself on the table after Sunday’s match.

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