On Sunday night, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City visited Stamford Bridge with five first team players out due to Covid-19. Without even checking the lineups, anyone would have expected Frank Lampard’s young, energetic Blues to get a result at home. But Pep Guardiola had a few tricks up his sleeve.
We take a look at the full match analysis and figure out how Manchester City pulled off a 3-1 win without a natural striker on the pitch.
Systems and lineups
This season Frank Lampard has switched between a 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 due to new signings and personnel in the team. The poor form of Kai Havertz especially has seen Lampard migrate to the 4-3-3 for the short term.
Pep and City lined up in a 4-3-3, though he has favoured the 4-2-3-1 using Kevin De Bruyne as an out and out #10 this season; he fielded a midfield of Bernardo Silva, Rodri and Gundogan with Kevin de Bruyne in attack with Sterling and Foden.
Man City’s shape
It was widely expected that Pep Guardiola would opt for the usual 4-3-3 with Sterling through the middle, but the Spaniard pulled a surprise; opting for more of a 4-3-1-2 with De Bruyne operating from the centre and Sterling and Foden hugging the touchline instead of playing as inverted wingers.
Playing Sterling and Foden on their stronger foot meant they could stretch the Chelsea defence and allow the midfield to make runs from deep; a common occurrence throughout the game. Gundogan and Bernardo often made runs into the centre of the pitch as Foden and Sterling kept width.
Cancelo and Zinchecko often inverted and joined the midfield to allow the two 8s (Gundogan and Bernardo) to push up ahead of de Bruyne into dangerous areas. This led to many chances in the first half.
The inverted fullbacks were key in the game as it often meant Chelsea’s midfield had to make a decision between tracking the runs of the midfielders or tracking back to help the fullbacks in wide areas.
Above is the heatmap of Zinchenko and Cancelo during the game. Both fullbacks spent quite a lot of time in and around the center of the pitch.
Bernardo, Gundogan and De Bruyne run the show
Kevin de Bruyne found a lot of joy in-behind Chelsea’s midfield line. Often making runs in between Chelsea’s defenders causing havoc; his runs also allowed Sterling and Foden to attack the space vacated by Chelsea’s defenders.
Chelsea’s midfield failed to pick up the runs of De Bruyne and Gundogan throughout the game, the tracking back from the wingers was also poor as Sterling and Foden often found themselves 1v1 against Azpilicueta and Chilwell.
Between City’s midfield trio they were able to generate six (6) key passes, 11 shots a big chance a goal and an assist. Pep Guardiola’s tactics were very effective as their runs and rotations caused disorganization within the Chelsea backline.
What will be interesting is how City will set-up once Jesus recovers from Corona and Aguero is back to fitness. Pep Guardiola’s side show that they are not out of the title race just yet.