Chelsea’s winning streak against Manchester City has come to an end. After three in a row, they finally got one. Pep Guardiola avoided a fourth consecutive defeat to the same opposition for the first time ever, and in the process also became City’s all-time leader in managerial wins.
But as excellent as City were, we did little to help our own cause. They needed to be at their best, and they were. We needed to be at our best, and we were not. An incomplete performance from the Blues was duly punished by a complete performance.
Why exactly that happened is perhaps not easy to surmise immediately afterwards, but as head coach Thomas Tuchel reflected, we played as if we had something to lose, something to fear, rather than something to win and something to gain.
“If you want to play at this level you need everything: possession, long balls, defending, ball wins in transition. [But] we could not escape the pressure and then it was a case of decision making, vision, individual performance today. We were so un-precise and our decision-making was not good enough. We lacked the confidence to switch the ball to the other side.
“They are the most intensive team in the division in the opponent half but they are only ten players and there are ways to escape the pressure. We were not at our highest level, easy as that. And then we can’t expect a result.
“We played with the mentality that we had something to lose but there was nothing to lose here. After the goal there was a bit more energy, a good reaction, a lot of risks that we took and I finally had the feeling and connection that this is the mentality that you need from the start: that you take risks and accept risks.”
There are of course two teams involved in any game, and City certainly had something to say about how the game played out, and turned out. They forced their game on us, and we could not do the same to them, at least not often and certainly not until after they had already taken the lead.
Chelsea began the match with three midfielders and perhaps that played the big part in our approach, but for Tuchel, the performance had a lot more to do with our execution than our specific shape. And the execution certainly lacked once we got beyond our own defensive area.
“We decided on 5-3-2 [but] I don’t think it is a matter of structure against City, it is a matter of divisions and adaption to the opponent’s spaces, where you can find the spaces. We tried in a 3-2 and weren’t able to have front connections in the build-up.
“We are in this together. We win together and I will ask the question also to myself. Was it the right shape? But I don’t think the shape is decisive to the result.”
“We were excellent but only in the last 20 metres of the match, not in the other 80 metres. Part of performance is to make an opponent underperform and that is what City did today. They were stronger, sharper, had more precision [...] they made us underperform and they deserved to win.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London
We began our day level on points with two other teams at the top of the league, and we finish our day level on points with three other teams at the top of the league — with Liverpool playing tonight. It doesn’t look like anyone’s running away with the league anytime soon, and there are 32 more games to play.
It’s never good to lose, but there are plenty of lessons we can learn from this defeat.
Onwards and upwards!