Manchester City came from behind to beat Frank Lampard’s Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday night. Goals from Kevin de Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez turned the match around for Guardiola’s side after N’Golo Kante put the visitors in front.
Here’s what we learned from a cagey night in Manchester…
Riyad Mahrez: Gamechanger
I’m delighted to be able to start by praising Riyad Mahrez, who won the game with a special goal in the first half. He danced through Chelsea’s defence, skipping through a tiny gap between Tomori and Emerson, before curling a low shot past Kepa and into the bottom corner.
It was a goal straight out of Riyad’s Leicester City days, when he was a key part of their title-winning side, and bagged similar goals several times throughout the season. On technical ability alone, he must be in the top ten players in the league. This is exactly the kind of thing we know he’s capable of and the Algerian’s fourth goal of the season put City in the perfect position to go on and win the match.
Foden’s Role Grows
While the vast majority of Phil Foden’s Premier League appearances have come off the bench, it’s not often that Guardiola trusts him to come on when the team aren’t in a comfortable lead. It’s true that David Silva’s injury realistically forced the manager’s hand, but it was still nice to see Foden given the job of helping the team hold a lead and extend it if possible.
Yet again, the midfielder proved his credentials with a solid showing, keeping the ball nicely and adding a penetrative edge to City’s attack. He offers something different to any other midfielder in the squad, and if allowed to develop his current style will turn into our best goalscoring midfielder since Yaya Touré.
A Change in Approach
Today, Manchester City recorded just over 46% possession despite being at home – a record low for a Pep Guardiola team. Ever. And you know what? I’m fine with it. Despite the obvious benefits of Pep’s possession-oriented system (the man didn’t become the best coach in the world by accident) I don’t see the harm in falling below the 50% mark every now and then – if we get the job done. This stat proves that City can win games without dominating the ball, an extremely valuable quality for any title-challenging side.
We simply aren’t going to boss possession in every single game, particularly in the latter stages of the Champions League, and tonight taught any opposing manager who thinks possession is equal to stopping City a cruel lesson. We can win in more than one way.
This Is Not A Title-Winning Defence
It’s no secret that City haven’t coped well since the loss of Aymeric Laporte early in the season, and tonight that fragility was cruelly exposed by N’Golo Kante. Not only did Fernandinho and John Stones lose track of the Frenchman far too easily, but Benjamin Mendy was shrugged off by Chelsea’s diminutive midfielder far too easily. Ederson, too, could have done better, but you can tell he’s paying the price for the uncertainty ahead of him.
You would be correct to point out that we’ll tighten up immeasurably once Laporte returns, but it’s still puzzling how flimsy we are in his absence considering the quality that, on paper at least, this squad has in spades.
De Bruyne Haunts Chelsea Again
Kevin de Bruyne has something of a record when it comes to goals against the Premier League’s big six. He’s scored against Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Chelsea twice since moving to England in 2015. His former club must regret selling the Belgian more and more with every passing month, as his stock in the game grows, and today De Bruyne bagged in slightly fortunate fashion to level for a struggling City side. He’s certainly a man for the big occasions, but hasn’t shown it to the best of his abilities yet this campaign – until tonight. Hopefully this is the start of a return to bullying the big boys yet again for the brilliant Belgian.
Follow us on Twitter for live updates: @City_Xtra
Follow the Author here: @nallensports