Chelsea 2-1 Manchester City: Lampard fires home winner after City go down to ten

December 12, 2011

The starting line-ups

An evenly-balanced game at 11 v 11, before Chelsea made their numerical advantage count late on.

Andre Villas-Boas named his expected side – David Luiz was suspended, so Branislav Ivanovic tucked inside and Jose Bosingwa started at right-back. Otherwise, it was unchanged from the side which defeated Valencia.

Roberto Mancini went with what increasingly looks like his ‘big game’ Premier League line-up – as against Liverpool and Manchester United, Edin Dzeko was left out with Mario Balotelli ahead of Sergio Aguero. Gael Clichy and Pablo Zabaleta were at full-back.

This was a game of various stages…

Stage 1: City dominate

First, inevitably, the question of how much Chelsea pressed. Villas-Boas explained this nicely himself: ”In the beginning of the game we were trying to find the best position for the block. We set out today on a medium block. They were feeling too much attraction to press their short build-up, and in the first ten minutes we suffered a lot. I think we adjusted that, I think the players felt they had to adjust, so they lowered the lines a little bit, felt comfortable with it, and then they gained the confidence.”

Whilst Chelsea closed down in midfield early on before dropping, City were pressing excellently for a longer period. Aguero played high up and took it in turns to become the main striker with Balotelli – those two pressed the defenders, and the City midfield was extremely brave in closing down high up the pitch despite the numerical disadvantage in midfield. Zabaleta was very aggressive with his positioning, sticking tight to Mata even when the Spaniard dropped into the midfield zone. City got the upper hand in this period through sheer energy and physicality – they took the lead early on through that obvious approach against Chelsea, pace in behind. That justified the decision to play Balotelli over Dzeko.

The formations were as expected, with the arguable exception of David Silva starting from the right and James Milner from the left.

Stage 2: Evenly-balanced

City’s pressing lasted for around 20 minutes, before they then dropped deeper, formed two banks of four behind the ball, and started to try to soak up pressure. At this point, Chelsea’s spare man in midfield became important; Oriel Romeu completed all his passes between 15 and 45 minutes with calm, steady distribution.

Aguero and Balotelli were now doing little out of possession and that can partly explain Chelsea’s equaliser – John Terry got time to hit a huge ball out to Daniel Sturridge who beat Clichy and crossed for Raul Meireles, making a Frank Lampard-esque run into a goalscoring position.

The main feature of the game, however, was arguably that the two star men couldn’t really get into it. David Silva and Juan Mata weren’t poor, but neither were the force they’ve consistently proved to be so far this season. There didn’t appear to be any particular reason for this – the game was fast, frantic and congested, but if any players should be able to cope with those conditions, it was these two.

This general pattern continued after half time, although Chelsea increasingly pushed City back – the energy of Ramires in the centre of the pitch was a factor in driving the side forward, and it was particularly noticeable how many more challenges Chelsea won – their tackle completion rate was exceptional.


by Guardian Chalkboards

Stage 3: 11 v 10

Clichy had a poor game – culpable on the first goal, and then dismissed for a poor challenge on Ramires after being given the runaround by Sturridge. This changed the game completely – City were no longer an attacking force, and their only attempt with ten men came from a low Mario Balotelli shot that Petr Cech saved comfortable.

With ten men, Mancini started off trying to play 4-4-1, bringing on Kolo Toure to play at right-back, with Pablo Zabaleta going to left-back. This shape worked reasonably well in forming a good defensive barrier, but Mancini seemed concerned that City were inviting too much pressure.

Shortly before the concession of the penalty (and the subsequent winning goal) Mancini changed to more of a narrow 4-3-1-1 shape to guard the centre of the pitch. Nigel de Jong came on for Silva and sat ahead of the back four, Milner and Barry were either side, and Toure played behind Balotelli. This was a curious move – Chelsea had been working the ball nicely from flank to flank, and this simply gave Ashley Cole and Bosingwa even more time on the ball. The latter received the ball more frequently in the final 35 minutes than in the opening 55.

Chelsea should be given great credit for their patience and calmness with the ball when they had a man. Never did they resort to hanging it up for Drogba in the box – instead they went from flank to flank, spreading the play and creating overloads down the flanks. The only thing they could have done better was to move Sturridge more central – he and Bosingwa got in each others’ way on the right, and it was telling that Chelsea got the breakthrough when he moved into a goalscoring position, albeit indirectly.

Conclusion

Like with Real Madrid during the Clasico, we saw a side start strongly by pressing, but then fall away dramatically later in the game (not withstanding the changes resulting from the red card).

A tactical battle mainly based around (a) degree of pressure in the first half, and then (b) managers’ reactions to the 11 v 10 situation later on. The scoreline basically went with the pattern of the game.


Chelsea 2-1 Manchester City: Lampard fires home winner after City go down to ten

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