Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Super Chelsea beat Man City clean and square

The ‘undefeatable’ Manchester City were defeated by a classical Jose Mourinho master act as Chelsea made sure that the most prolific team in the league and making history and breaking record after record failed to score at home for the first time since 2010. For many it was a surprise result, myself included, but what stands out for me was how it was done. A perfect execution
I never gave Chelsea a slight chance of victory and I never entertained a thought of City failing to score. This is despite the anticipated tactics that were thought to be Mourinho’s ace up the sleeve – ultra-defensive behaviour, parking the bus until the cows came home, and that is exactly what The Special One did not do.
It came to what I always used in lower division football, which I thought was inappropriate at the time and worse still in top-flight football of the 21st century, basically a 1-6-4 formation. You can configure the 6 and the 4 as you like but the result of that distribution of players on the pitch was that the Blues were far offensive enough and very compact defensively.
One can dwell on the stats about the broken 11-match winning streak in the league for City as well as eight in a row at home. That is something else. The world witnessed Mourinho at his best. Chelsea played against one of the world’s in-form teams of all time in the whole world, a team embarrassed with an array of talent, and he tore them to shreds. So effective was the attack that the bar saved City not once, not twice but thrice. We are not mentioning comic misses and Joe Hart saves.
Now that the Citizens lost, there may be sympathisers who could be justified to mourn about the absence of Fernandinho, Nasri and Aguero. City skinned so many teams with or without many players before. Chelsea were well prepared to beat City with all their stars in place and they executed their plan to the letter. For their record, Chelsea had kept four clean sheets in a row away from home in the Premier League so far and adding City to that list has many implications.
Many teams realise City are beatable as Arsene Wenger said before the match. This ups the stakes for smaller teams in the remaining City fixtures. City players will be questioning their invincibility, although they will tell you it is a blow they will take in their chin and push forward. That could be true and you can only feel for their next opponents.
For Chelsea, the direct benefit was matching the points tally to their rivals and raising the confidence that they can go all the way. This Chelsea cannot crush and finish small teams. The number one person in Wenger’s books today is Mourinho. More than Chelsea, Arsenal were a tertiary beneficiary of that victory. Many managers will tell you that they worry about their fixtures but one cannot say with a straight face that the Chelsea win did not open the race wide.
The victory is a game-changing ideal that keeps Chelsea and Arsenal hopes alive and the ultimate City celebrations really took a bad knock that will be sore and take time to heal. Anyone who is not Chelsea will find it hard to deal with a wounded City. Forget about the many mistakes done by Manuel Pelligrini. They will be back.