Manchester City’s unbeaten start to the Premier League season came grinding to a halt as Pep Guardiola’s side suffered a shock defeat away to Chelsea on Saturday.
The champions were the dominant side for large parts of the game, especially during the first half, but Maurizio Sarri’s team delivered the killer touch in the clash to seal the three points for Chelsea.
Goals from N’Golo Kante and David Luiz in either half were enough to ensure the three points in what was a stunning result for the home side. Here is a selection of four things we learned during the heavyweight encounter at the Bridge…
1. City Are Not Invincible
With City and Liverpool the only two remaining unbeaten sides in the Premier League season ahead of Saturday’s match, and with Guardiola’s side widely regarded as the best in the country, it had began to feel as though no one in the division could beat the champions.
City proved that they had the graft and application to match their technical excellence as they pressed Chelsea relentlessly from the outset at the Bridge, but the Blues found a way to stop them.
There may have been some luck along the way for the home side, as Guardiola’s men almost certainly should have scored during their first half dominance, but Chelsea’s revised approach of long balls in behind City’s high line at the back paid dividends. Sarri’s men survived City’s onslaught and picked the visitors off by taking their chances when they arrived.
2. Chelsea DO Have a Plan B
Much of the debate surrounding Chelsea in recent weeks was based on the sense that the Blues lacked a fallback approach in matches where the opposition pressed them in the middle of the park and restricted Jorginho’s influence on the game.
The Italian maestro has become a central figure at Stamford Bridge this season as Chelsea’s pass master, but teams such as Tottenham and Wolves have discovered in recent weeks that if you stop Jorginho, you stop Chelsea.
City executed arguably the finest pressing game seen this season during the first half on Saturday, but Chelsea were able to negate their loss of space in the middle this time out through a more direct approach. With Guardiola’s side pressing high up the pitch, spaces were left in behind the visitors’ defence, and Sarri’s men exploited them through long balls over the top, feeding the pace and power of Eden Hazard and co up front and in behind City’s defence.
3. City Miss Aguero
With both Kevin de Bruyne and Sergio Aguero continuing to miss out through injury on Saturday, it would be a tough ask for any side not to miss two players of such elite quality.
The continued development of Bernardo Silva has eased City’s midfield problems in De Bruyne’s absence but, with no Aguero, Guardiola’s side have lacked a natural goal scorer to spearhead their attack.
Gabriel Jesus still appears to be far from the finished article for City, with the Brazilian left on the bench at the Bridge in favour of Raheem Sterling’s shift through the middle. Though the England forward worked tirelessly to press from the front to find an opening, City lacked that killer instinct and clinical ability in the box that Aguero would ordinarily give them.
4. Sarri Must Solve His Striker Dilemma
Saturday’s match was further evidence that it is not only City who are struggling to find the ideal formula up front. As with Sterling playing as a makeshift striker for the visitors, Eden Hazard was deployed as a ‘false nine’ through the middle for Chelsea, with mixed results.
Though the Beligan’s mobility and pace across the front line enables him to work the opposition’s defence with his movement and speed in behind, Chelsea did lack the focal point in attack in the Didier Drogba or Diego Costa mould with which they have historically thrived.
Olivier Giroud was left on the bench whilst Alvaro Morata was excluded from the matchday squad altogether by Sarri. In the absence of a natural goal scorer, Chelsea had to turn to defensive midfielder Kante and centre back David Luiz for their goals. On a more regular basis, Chelsea need that target man to lead with goals from the front if they are to succeed.