Chelsea v Man City: One big game, five big questions
1 weeks ago, 20:24
There’s a growing concern inside Stamford Bridge that Maurizio Sarri’s Plan A has been found out, and that after a honeymoon period in the Premier League we are entering a difficult second phase for the Italian at Chelsea. While Pep Guardiola coaches a variety of tactical battleplans simultaneously – to keep opponents on their toes – it would appear that Sarri is set to fine tune the 4-3-3.
It had better work. Chelsea have won four points from their last four Premier League matches to leave them ten behind Manchester City as we enter the frantic Christmas schedule; this isn’t the time of year to be entering a sticky patch, particularly if the manager insists on the same formation and roughly the same team selection week in, week out.
Here are five tactical posers for Pep and Sarri…
1) Will two high-line teams create a claustrophobic, risk-averse game?
The two clubs’ respective draws with Liverpool earlier this season indicate this might not be a classic. Chelsea’s 1-1 in September and City’s 0-0 in October were both defined by risk-averse football that saw Liverpool and their rivals cancel each other out.
Chelsea and City use relatively similar tactics, their 4-3-3 shapes both relying on short-passing build-up play that funnels through the deepest midfielder (Fernandinho or Jorginho) and links to the front line via centre-mids shuttling up and down the left and right half-spaces. Both want to overload the middle of the park with bodies, both play a lot of football with their backs to goal, and both deploy high defensive lines to stamp out counter-attacks.
It is easy, then, to imagine a claustrophobic game in which the midfield is too cluttered, as Sarri and Guardiola squeeze up the pitch until everything is bunched in the middle. By accident or design, similar formations mean most areas of the pitch could end up man-to-man, while wariness of each other’s counter-attacks ensures the full-backs will show caution.
2) Or does Wolves’ performance on Wednesday set up an end-to-end thriller?
That’s one theory. But Wolves’ 2-1 win at Molineaux in midweek offers an alternative preview of Saturday’s big game, in which Guardiola’s pressing unsettles the Chelsea midfield but leaves City vulnerable to long balls over the top.
Wolves were notably more aggressive in the second half on Wednesday, pushing much higher up the pitch to disrupt the rhythm of Chelsea’s passing. They attempted 14 tackles in the 2nd half (picking up four yellow cards) compared with nine tackles in the first 45 (and one yellow). It was a brave approach from Nuno Esperito Santo that could – perhaps should – have backfired.
The positive impact was obvious, as Wolves committed men forward to score twice in the first 20 minutes of the half, but throughout that chaotic period of the match Chelsea could easily have scored a couple themselves thanks to long balls over the top of the home side’s high back line.
So, should City try to dominate the ball, and should Chelsea attempt more direct balls forward, we ...
Category: sports football