Even before the match had begun, Mourinho stated that City were favorites to be Champions this season having effectively ruled Arsenal out of the title race. However, if this match was anything to go by, his Chelsea are definitely looking like champion material themselves. In what was a brilliant display of masterful tactics and his knowledge of game play, Mourinho quite clearly won the day.
Manchester City suffered their first defeat of the season at home at the hands of Chelsea which also ended City’s 61 match scoring streak at home in all league matches – a streak which started back in November 2010. To the delight of many Chelsea fans and the chagrin of many neutrals, Mourinho’s men went to the Etihad and did not “park the bus”. Instead, what the Blues indulged in was a masterclass display of how to play against the best attack in the league and come out on top with all three points in the bag. With over 600 million pounds worth of talent on display for both sides and with two of the highest paid managers in the Premier League, this was sure to give fans their money’s worth. And so it did.
How they shaped up?
As was expected, Mourinho started with his usual 4-2-3-1 formation with Matic and Luiz playing the DM role. This was Matic’s first start since returning to Chelsea. Ramires started on the right and Hazard on the left with Willian playing a central attacking role. On the other hand, Manchester City started with Demichelis playing the DM role and Matija Nastasic getting a start in the center of defense. The familiar faces of Kompany, Yaya Toure, Negredo and Dzeko all started for The Citizens. They lined up in their 4-1-3-2 line up with Yaya Toure being the focal point yet again.
With what turned out to be crucial in hindsight, Fernandinho missed the game with an injury which prompted Demichelis to play in his place. With him in the middle of midfield, what is usually a pacy midfield looked a bit laboured. The key midfield battle of the night was clearly won by Chelsea as they pressed the City defence time and time again. Yaya Toure was the standout for City as he tried to inspire them to break the team from London. However, as will be explained in the next section, the way Chelsea set up made it really difficult for him and his team to do so.
Statistically speaking, Manchester City had 58% of the possession but failed to make use of it. There was also no paucity of action at both ends as the home team had 20 shots on goal out of which 3 were on target, while the away team had 6 of their 14 shots on target. One of those shots, crucially for Chelsea, hit the back of the net thanks to their right back Branislav Ivanovic. Snapping up on a loose ball as the City defence tried to clear their lines, the Serbian drilled a thunderous shot into the bottom corner of Joe Hart’s goal.
City started the brighter side but failed to make good of their chances. Negredo, Silva and even Toure missed golden chances to equalize. Chelsea got into gear about 20 minutes into the first half with Ramires and Willian combining well in midfield. Hazard, as ever, was in inspirational form as he tirelessly ran up and down the left side of the pitch. The most controversial play of the game came when Nastasic tugged at Oscar’s shirt while the Brazilian was on his way to goal. The Chelsea players immediately demanded that Nastasic be sent off for the offence, however referee Mike Dean only produced a yellow card.
Building from the back (aka ‘Park the Bus’)
As is the norm with Mourinho’s teams, they always have relied on a strong defence. When the Premier League season began, Chelsea were leaking goals. But now with Mourinho getting more time to impose his philosophy on the team, things are beginning to look good for the Blues.
The England pairing of John Terry and Gary Cahill were sensational for their team’s cause. Even the most ardent of Terry haters must now be hoping, in some tiny, far-flung corner of their heart, that Terry makes an international comeback and solidifies England’s defence. As for his partner, the former Bolton man must surely now be expecting a ticket on the plane to Brazil given his brilliant (but sometimes unnoticed to the untrained eye) displays for his current club. Honourable mentions also to Chelsea’s attacking men, the likes of Hazard and Willian, who tracked back and worked hard to win the ball back.
Another role that looks to be sorted is that of the defensive midfield. The signing of Matic further bolstered the already strong part of the team. Also, with the latter’s signing, Ramires will get more freedom to go up and play in attack which can only be good news for the Blues faithful.
Off the pitch battle
Chelsea’s players seemed to be feeding of Mourinho’s energy on the touchline. Every play, every tackle won, every track back by his forwards and even the way Matic ushered some of the City attackers away from goal was applauded. His Chilean counterpart, on the other hand, was his usual subdued self. There was no reason not to be so. He is used to seeing his team steamroll opponents at home and yesterday was expected to be no different. The bookies, the media and for that matter most Chelsea fans had already conceded that Manchester City were the clear favourites to win the battle.
Most of them, however, had not taken into account Mourinho’s ability to surprise anyone. While everyone expected him to park the bus, he let the brakes off and rolled City over with his tactics. Pellegrini is a seasoned coach and with more experience than Mourinho. However, on this day, the junior coach taught him a lesson in organisation, tactics and reading the opponents play.
With the smart cookie that Mourinho is, even his post match press conference did not fail to disappoint. He labeled Manchester City the title favourites despite doing the double on them this season. Also, with everyone slagging off Mourinho last week for selling Juan Mata to United, that decision is also looking like a stroke of genius given City and Arsenal are yet to play United in their reverse fixtures.
It takes a master craftsman like Mourinho to break down a team like Manchester City and that he did. On the night, the wily Portuguese managed to outwit his much senior counterpart in every department. Matches like these only add to an ever increasing reputation for the man from Setubal. Perhaps that old quote, ‘In Jose, We Trust’, isn’t much of a stretch after all!