Chelsea 0-1 Man City – How Pep Beat Tuchel – Tactical Analysis

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Chelsea vs. Manchester City was tipped to be an early title decider, and it did not disappoint as a highly contested affair between two teams right in the thick of the race this season. In the end it was the Citizens who came out on top, after an utterly dominant performance over a team that beat them in the UEFA Champions League final last season. Here is our analysis of the match.

chelsea: 3-5-2

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Chelsea set up in a 3-5-2 shape, which in practice ended up being much more 5-3-2 given the control City had over the match. As City kept possession, the lines between the midfield three and front two became bigger and bigger, with Chelsea attempting to soak up the pressure and hit Pep’s men on the break. Unfortunately, this was their downfall. The Blues never developed any sort of rhythm in the match, and didn’t do the normal things we associate with a Tuchel team – switching play, width via wing-backs, and control in central midfield. It was a much more defensive performance from the Blues instead, and they will regret this having now failed to score for the first time in a match this season. On a more positive note, they were successful throughout the first half in compacting central midfield areas. Kante, Jorginho and Kovacic shuffled well across the midfield lines to stop players like De Bruyne and Bernardo gaining traction. The problem was more at the very back, where City’s movement and intelligence off the ball, in addition to some sublime individual skill in possession, made their lives more difficult.

After winning possession, Chelsea also struggled to make their time on the ball count. They often failed in the first decision after regaining the ball, sometimes choosing to carry and losing it to Manchester City’s intense pressure, and other times passing too soon and losing the opportunity to break.

While normally Chelsea’s wing-backs maintain much in the width, on this particular day, Marcos Alonso kept on inverting. Whether it was out of strategy or Alonso’s own choice, it didn’t work. This only played into City’s inverted fullback tactic, and meant that Kovacic rotated with Alonso and found himself in wide areas, where he was less impactful if City regained possession. City could have taken advantage of this to a greater extent, but neglected to do so due to the lack of a real right winger in the side. That is – Phil Foden and Gabriel Jesus both looked to roam centrally in and out of possession. Jesus only became concerned about tracking Alonso’s movement forward once Chelsea reached their own half, which only really happened after the Citizens had gone a goal up.

Since City also favoured their left side in attack, Chelsea were often forced to start their attacks down their right, with Timo Werner, rather than the more dangerous Lukaku. Without the vibrant Reece James and his awareness of space, or an attacking midfielder like Mount or Havertz, Werner didn’t have any bit of support. For Chelsea, they defended well, but could not attack with any sort of fluidity. That made it all the easier for City to gain dominance over the match.

manchester city: 4-3-3

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Manchester City set up in their usual 4-3-3, with Phil Foden and Gabriel Jesus intertwining in and out of the striker role throughout. The Citizens controlled the match through their possession in Chelsea’s half, and used the individual skill of their star front-men to create chances. Jack Grealish was lively on the ball and often looked to dribble toward a Chelsea defender at speed, before shifting it onto his right foot and delivering a through-pass.

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The most impressive thing about City however was not their attack, but how quickly they got back to defend. Gabriel Jesus was excellent in rushing back to break up attacks, while Bernardo Silva had a more reserved role alongside Rodri to provide extra defensive solidity. When you add the speedy Kyle Walker into the mix and the error-free Ruben Dias, Chelsea’s brief moments to attack were all fruitless. Timo Werner was completely tamed by a myriad of City talents, while Romelu Lukaku couldn’t find himself on the ball enough to make a difference.

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Normally Chelsea can control games in central midfield areas when given time and space, so City made active strides to never let them have time and space. Kante and Kovacic couldn’t get forward on a dribble as much as they would have liked, due to the intense pressing of players like Jesus, Grealish and Bernardo. Jorginho and Kovacic also couldn’t do their silky one-touch pass and move sequences out from the back, due to the same high pressure. Further at the back, Pep’s high-line also caught Chelsea off-side all too often, and even stopped the Blues’ best break of the game – when Lukaku’s goal was ruled out to offside.

In the end, City made their win over Chelsea look all to easy, and now temporarily (at the very least) establish themselves as title favourites.


So there it is! A quick tactical analysis of Chelsea’s 1-0 loss to Manchester City. Be sure to check out more of our Tactics, and follow on Twitter @mastermindsite to never miss an update. Thanks for reading and see you soon!



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On this special midweek episode of the Longball podcast, John is over the moon with Rangnick’s announcement and United’s performance against Chelsea. Meanwhile, Declan is concerned about the Hammers’ recent run of form, and the boys try and get to the bottom of what’s gone wrong with Everton this season ahead of their clash with Liverpool. All of that and a whole lot more on this special episode of the Longball Premier League Preview Show. Submit any questions for the show to themastermindsite.com/contact.

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