The manner of Chelsea’s capitulation against Manchester City last weekend remains a talking point. Let’s see what we can learn from the match statistics.
(NB: Manchester City stats on the left — or orange in graphics — and Chelsea on the right — or blue on graphics. We didn’t choose these colours.)
Chelsea’s advantage in ball retention lasted less than one minute, as City quickly gained possession via pressing — something that would be a constant for most of the game, as intensity would vary since their players were tired from facing and beating Arsenal 3-0 two times before our meeting.
And on all the meaningful on the ball stats, City were kings. We had loads of luck with their bad aim to find the target, mixed with good work from players to block shots on Thibaut Courtois’ way. Nevertheless, they still had strength to find 8 shots while completely shutting down Chelsea in this regard.
That was much due to their ball retention. Around the 16-minute mark, City had 80% possession of the ball versus Chelsea’s 20%. But the Blues managed to recover some of that at the end of the first half, when City’s intensity diminished. However, they still “outpassed” us with 508 passes attempted and 467 completed against Chelsea’s 154 attempts and 111 completions. In scale, City attempted 3.3x more passes than their opponents, with a passing success of 92% versus Chelsea’s 72%.
Things were also rather bad in terms of dribbling. With Leroy Sané hitting the form of his life this season, our right flank was constantly under threat despite the best efforts of Victor Moses and César Azpilicueta to contain these forays. But those were not enough since City found success in 14 out of 15 dribbles, as Chelsea — having one of the game’s best dribblers Eden Hazard completely isolated from play in his act as a false-nine — went 4/6.
Thanks to City finding a goal early into the second half out of a collective mistake by our defence, their rhythm diminished. That still does not mean they were completely dominant, as they kept playing Chelsea out of the park.
City’s ball retention dropped to 65% in the second half, as they attempted 471 passes in the final 45 minutes. But Chelsea’s numbers were still embarrassing in comparison, since they only mustered 248 attempts to pass the ball — many times in zones that would not bring City any danger.
At least the Blues managed to record shots this half with 3, though none of those forced City goalkeeper Ederson to intervene. And it felt as if City could have been as dominant in that regard as they were in the first half, if it wasn’t for tiredness creeping in.
City were uncharacteristically aimless last Sunday, which was good for us since they left the trouncing out of the scoreline and our goal difference in the Premier League. They had only 3 shots on target throughout the game in 13 attempts, with a 23% success — 18.7% less than their average of 41.7% in the competition.
Meanwhile, Chelsea were just embarrassing in yet another statistical bit. None of their 3 shots, which all came in the second half, met Ederson’s goal.
The difference was also clear in shot zones. Guardiola’s teams became known for many characteristics, one of them being rarely attempting shots from outside the box and surely enough City follows this pattern by having only 4 attempts — 31% of them — from that area. In the meantime Chelsea had 66% of their shots from outside the box, although they only had 3 in total. Only more evidence to attest how poor we were in bringing any kind of danger to City’s defence.
And unsurprisingly, Guardiola’s men had most of their shots coming from open play at 11 out of 13 attempts. Chelsea went with 2 shots from open play and one from set pieces, although the latter would certainly grow had the Blues managed to find more situations moving forward to win fouls near City’s 18-yard box.
xG map for Man City - Chelsea. Play for the draw and come up with a loss. Not a lot in that Chelsea performance. pic.twitter.com/jZkdMP6nWv— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) March 4, 2018
To those who are not familiar with expected goals, below is an explanation from Goal.com’s Oli Platt.
“[...] Expected goals assigns a value to the chances of a shot resulting in a goal.”
“It does so by crunching data from thousands of historical shots and filtering them based on factors such as distance, type of shot, type of pass and the number of defenders between the shooter and the goal.”
“All of this information is used to create a percentage chance, on average, of a particular shot going in with all of those factors taken into account.”
“It is usually expressed as a number between 0 and 1, with 1 being the maximum and representing a certain goal. A chance worth 0.2 expected goals can be expected to result in a goal on one out of every five occasions.”
And those already familiar with the statistic may have expected bigger numbers from City. But taking into account how these shots were taken and how many of they did not find the target, it is not that big of a surprise. Chelsea, however, went just as anticipated.
City had heavy focus on their left flank when attacking, enjoying the form of Sané combining with attacking midfielder David Silva and support of “holding” Ilkay Gündogan. Expectedly, the midfield pairing of Cesc Fàbregas and Danny Drinkwater were all but unable to challenge City’s trio of Gündogan, Silva and former Blue Kevin de Bruyne. Such is that we simply forgot to play ball in the middle of the pitch, looking for the side centre backs in César Azpilicueta and Antonio Rüdiger to play long and deep to the wings while only increasing Eden’s rage meter.
City’s domination can also be shown in their dribbling map. Most attempts at beating players came from the hosts, and in their case all of their dribbles were made in our own half.
Alas Chelsea were only able to complete a single dribble in 3 attempts made in City’s half, when Pedro had a spark of geniality and cut through the hosts’ defence on the left wing. And that was it from us.
Despite not scoring nor registering an assist in Sunday’s game, Sané was clearly City’s best player on the pitch. But his colleagues in offence were not too far behind in their own playing styles.
De Bruyne was tied with Agüero, who gave a masterclass on how to play without the ball as a centre forward, in key passes with 4 to each of them. However Sané was the champions in the dribbling department, completed 8 of 9 runs at our defenders. Not that his teammates were slouches in this regard, since De Bruyne and Agüero were yet again tied on another stats by hitting 100% success in 3 runs attempted. Meanwhile, Sané’s right flank counterpart and City goalscorer Bernardo Silva got it right in 3 of 4 attempts.
Chelsea were not given too many opportunities to shine on offence, and so the stats reflect that.
2 of the 3 key passes made by Chelsea in the weekend came from Cesc Fàbregas, but neither of the ensuing shots managed to find the target. Zeros all across the board.
The starting frontline were also unable to do much, even in their speciality. Combined, our three minnows completed 7 dribbles in 9 attempts, although as shown above almost all of those came from areas far away from City’s defensive third. And with the final pass always lacking, our struggles to remove ourselves from the trenches continued.
Neither Ederson nor Courtois had much to worry in their main functions, although one could argue the Brazilian has already become more of a sweeper than a keeper for City at this point of his career at the club.
In this task, Ederson did not have much trouble since Chelsea’s pressing attempts were few and far between. He did miss a pass in one of these occasions, but he was rarely put under situations to force long punts.
This was the complete opposite for Courtois, who at first had pressure from the backline and then from Silva whenever he tried to pass the ball from the back to his defenders. Thus, long balls became the only way forward to relieve the pressure imposed by City onto ourselves. And most times it felt as if the hosts were winning the challenges to regain possession.
To be outclassed by City in the possession game is an expected development for any side in the Premier League. But still not with the margins put on by the incumbent champions in their display last Sunday.
902 - Manchester City today completed more passes than any other team has managed in a single Premier League game (since 2003-04). Distributed.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 4, 2018
In total, City made 2.4 passes to every one attempted by Chelsea in the 90 minutes of the game. That with a 92% passing success to boot, while Chelsea completed only 77% of their passes.
But more worrying than the number of passes completed by City is how action was completely concentrated in the middle and away thirds — the latter being Chelsea’s defensive side — throughout the affair. City were able to make only 7% of their passing attempts in their defence, whereas Chelsea were forced to make 40% of them with their backs against the wall. As such, only 11% of the game’s “actions” were made on City’s defensive third, and 36% on Chelsea’s.
There is not much to highlight from City’s passing stats that has not been lauded on all corners of the internet by this point. Especially Gündogan’s game, who broke career and Premier League records with his cheer number of passes attempted and completed.
167 - Ilkay Gündogan completed more passes on his own today vs Chelsea than Stoke City did as a team vs Southampton yesterday (162). Machine. pic.twitter.com/gasAoxwEfb— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 4, 2018
“Amazingly” enough, they were very successful with their long passing. The perks of playing without any pressure!
Chelsea were the complete opposite of City in many regards. But none is more evident than their passing numbers.
Upon ranking players in touches, you would have goalkeeper Courtois tied in fourth-place with left wing back Marcos Alonso. And yes: Courtois had more touches than Drinkwater. A midfielder.
The thicker the arrow, the more combinations were made between players in the map. And City’s are as T H I C C as humanly possible!
In contrast, Chelsea’s plot appear to have been drawn by those ultra-thin pens that cost a fortune in stationery shops. And very few of those met our players upfront, as the map gives good backing to Eden’s complaints.
Speaking of which, above are Eden Hazard’s touches in the 90 minutes he stayed on the pitch. Notice how many of those are scattered all over the pitch, loads of which in our own half (at the right) and only one in City’s box.
And now, Sergio Agüero’s who played the same position as Hazard and had as many touches as the Belgian. Huge difference between a make-shift and a proper centre-forward!
Neither side were truly stellar in defensive stats, although City did not need such a thing out of their dominating ways in all other aspects of the game. But it’s interesting to note that most of City’s tackles — and actions overall — were done in our half, while Chelsea were only able to attempt and complete a single tackle on their opposition’s side. Another evidence as to how effective they were with their high-line, high-pressing scheme.
See also how the tackles are scattered on the wings, since those were the areas in which City were bringing themselves forward more often. Stretch and attack, the Guardiola way.
And at least, something in which Chelsea were superior: aerial duels! After the sh*t show that was dealing with striker Romelu Lukaku whenever one of his Manchester United teammates managed to find space to put one of their many crosses into our box in the weekend before the City game, Chelsea had it easy against a team that very well can, but will not make a heavy use of hoofed balls to move forward.
None of City’s players are defensive powerhouses, and it shows in their individual stats. Midfielder David Silva was the player who attempted the most tackles in the team, though this is down to his constant hounding on our backline throughout the game, completing 2 of 6 attempts.
In any case, they were not even asked upon to perform as much as we would expect in this aspect, so... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Chelsea however were in constant threat and demand for defensive action. And they did not perform as well overall.
The midfield pairing of Cesc and Drinkwater were bafflingly bad in their defensive tasks, and would probably make Kanté pull his hair out if he had any. Combined, both of them completed only 2 of 10 tackles attempted, which is very low for their usual standards (Cesc has a 55.3% tackling success in the PL, while Drinkwater’s stands at 52%).
There were still a few individual highlights in Willian, who completed 3 tackles in 4 attempts; the backline, who made 10 clearances — including Azpilicueta’s off the line intervention to impede Sané to open the scoreline; and Marcos Alonso, who won 3 of 5 aerial duels and made 4 interceptions in the game.
Not much of a surprise here. City’s game, especially at home, is based on suffocating their opponents and that is pretty much what took place last Sunday.
Their fullbacks Kyle Walker and Oleksandr Zinchenko were allowed to push forward and occupy the midfield next to Gündogan, who would drift left to help keep the flow of attacks concentrated of said flank. That also helped give City numerical advantages on their way forward, with their four-man attacking midfield band fluidly stretching and occupying spaces left by Chelsea. And Agüero, who did not touch the ball as often as his teammates, was key in dropping back and dragging markers with him or making those runs off the shoulder which have become his trademark by this point.
And Chelsea kept shape. That is mostly it.
“Embarrassing” is a word that has been used multiple times to describe Chelsea’s act at the Etihad, and it is for a good reason. The cowardice shown by the Blues is not unprecedented by ourselves nor by other teams upon facing a superior side, but we still expected more from the side.
It looks as if we were content to pick up a draw, which is all fine especially when you consider our form against City’s. Still, once the 0-0 draw became a 1-0 disadvantage, there should have been a plan to recover.
But we lacked execution. The final pass was always lacking, either going too far, too weak or just straight into a City player. Perhaps during the week of preparations ahead of the match, we simply spent time training how to keep shape — something straight out of Tony Pulis’ tactics.
This would not be a problem if you are someone like West Bromwich. But Chelsea are ought to do better.
Thankfully there is a prime opportunity to turn fortunes around next weekend, when we face Crystal Palace at home. They might be one of our boogeyman in the last few season, but they should be much easier to face and actually beatable.
And if they show to be otherwise, we are in deep trouble...