Things weren’t looking good for Manchester City heading into the game with eight first team players missing for one reason or another, but after a shaky opening 15 minutes, they were able to assert themselves and control the match, even without dominating possession.
It was in-form Ilkay Gündogan who put his side ahead with a slick turn and finish, which was then followed up minutes later by Phil Foden. The game was then put beyond any doubt by captain Kevin De Bruyne, who slot home a rebounded Raheem Sterling shot – all goals coming in the first half.
Chelsea should consider themselves grateful, not just for the consolation goal in injury time, but that they didn’t concede many more than they did. The result sees Manchester City move into fifth in the table – four points behind league leaders Liverpool, with one game in hand.
Here’s five things we learned from the match…
Phil Foden Makes His Case
After a week of conjecture and rumour surrounding our homeboy hero’s happiness with his playing time, Phil Foden made his case in the best way possible – with a man of the match performance.
Playing on the left side of the forward line, he made the position his own. At times he visibly exhausted Cesar Azpilicueta, who drew the short straw in trying to deal with our Stockport Iniesta in Reece James’ absence. For all his efforts Foden picked up a goal and an assist, while surely putting a marker down to the manager that he deserves to be considered for every Premier League starting eleven.
With the fixture list being so hectic, it’s understandable that every player isn’t going to start every game. However, at this rate Foden should be in the same bracket as Raheem Sterling and Rodri when it comes to playing priorities.
Positional Fluidity Makes Up for Absences
Despite the social media meltdown when the line-up was released, once Manchester City got into their stride, it was clear the formation was a masterstroke.
The fluidity of the midfielders (along with some man of the match performances) was key in overrunning Chelsea in the first-half. There was no double-pivot like most imagined. Instead, Ilkay Gündogan was used in the box-to-box role that’s seen him find the best form in his time in a Manchester City shirt. Meanwhile, Bernardo Silva would press high out of possession and drop into an inverted right-back role when on the ball, allowing him to combine effectively with Joao Cancelo.
Compound that with Kevin De Bruyne acting as a playmaker centre-forward and it was too much for the home team to handle. It was reminiscent of the Carabao Cup match at Old Trafford this time last year, where twenty minutes of dominant interplay put the match to bed.
Who needs a striker, eh?
Gündogan is the Man
As mentioned several times already, Ilkay Gündogan played a blinder in this match and managed to get himself on the score sheet again.
He’s shining in his current role and has finally found himself a place on the pitch he can lay claim to as his own, instead of being the back-up when others need a rest or when Pep Guardiola is in need of rotation.
The German midfielder has had a tough time of it in England with injuries, illnesses, and that time everyone suspiciously thought he was going to join up with Jurgen Klopp on a free. This is his time and long may it continue.
Steffen Might Not Be Ready
If you thought we couldn’t possibly find anegative after a huge win away to a rival, you were dead wrong.
Obviously it needs to be taken into account that this was Steffen’s Premier League debut and he can’t be judged by too high a standard. That said, this wasn’t his best outing. Picking up the ball from a pass-back within the opening five minutes aside, he didn’t fill me with confidence throughout the match and I think he was fortunate to have such a strong defence in front of him.
Clearly all he needs is time. The reality is that with Ederson out of action he isn’t going to get it and another Manchester derby awaits in three days time. Let’s hope it was just league debut jitters and he’ll be much more composed in the Carabao Cup at Old Trafford.
Back in the Title Race
This fixture at Stamford Bridge often seems to have a larger bearing on the league table narrative. In 17/18 it was the catalyst for what everyone could see would be a special season. Hopefully that could be the case for this campaign, which has at times been so frustrating, but still has so much potential.
I’ll admit that privately I’d written off our title chances after the defeat at Spurs. It felt like we still had the same problems as last season and I didn’t think we’d have the time to overcome them. This performance has changed my mind.
It wasn’t the most clinical display from the forward line but the intensity and drive was there, and didn’t diminish as the match went on. Plus, it was another strong showing for the defense who were unlucky to lose out on the clean sheet. City have shown what they’re capable of. All they need now is consistency.
We’re not out of contention yet.
You can follow Richard on Twitter here: @ignoblewretch
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