Chelsea 2 Manchester City 1: Some Thoughts

Date: 28th October 2013 at 3:59 pm
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Manchester City's Joe Hart walks off the pitch dejected after the 3-2 defeat at Cardiff City Stadium

* Twenty-four hours later, and I’m still angry. I haven’t felt like this since Samir Nasri waved the white flag at Robin Van Persie’s free-kick.

* Oh and I guess there was that FA Cup final too.

* As soon as Vincent Kompany’s absence was announced by Pellegrini on Friday, the arguments raged over who to pick alongside Nastastic. My pick was Lescott, because he’s actually a central defender. So is Demichelis of course, but as he hasn’t played for the club yet and was coming back from injury, I doubted his match-fitness and whether this was the best time to throw him into the team. Others even suggested Micah Richards, though when was the last time he played in the centre of defence? It made no sense to me. The general consensus was anyone but Garcia. In the end, Pellegrini went for…..

* As usual, it was an interesting team line-up, with Demichelis trusted to make the most difficult of debuts, and Javi Garcia picked in front of him. After unscrunching my face I realised it made sense. With Chelsea playing one up front, City did not want a repeat of the Bayern Munich match where City were overrun in midfield. So picking five in midfield made sense, and it was a line-up that allowed Yaya a more advanced role. The extra man also prevented Chelsea’s dangerous counter-attacking capabilities to wreak havoc on the visitors, and it was as usual simple lofted balls that did for City in the end.

* The usually excellent Football365’s Matthew Stanger didn’t agree though, arguing that Mourinho won the battle of tactics. I’m not sure how he came to that conclusion, as he argued that City should have persisted with two up front. But unless one of the front two was prepared to constantly drop back into midfield to help out, I don’t see how it would have worked. I’m no tactical expert though, so what do I know?

* For all the arguments over who to pick in defence, it was the more obvious picks that in the end that ended up causing the damage. Demichelis may have looked shaky early doors, and there was a lack of understanding that allowed Torres in for an easy chance, but in the end I think he did just fine, as did Garcia. As mentioned, there were bigger issues elsewhere.

* It was almost a game of two halves, and I think a draw would have been a fair result. After City had established themselves in the game in the first half, Chelsea took control, and fashioned a number of chances. They could easily have been at least two up at the break. In the 2nd half however, City were the better side, dominant in possession, and they fashioned all the chances, until the game was handed to them on a plate.

* It’s not just Joe Hart’s star that has waned. I have spoke about him previously, and there has definitely been a drop-off in the level of performances from Gael Clichy, to the extent that Aleksander Kolarov is now looking like the better option. How has it come to this? City need a top-class left-back. Clichy was poor for Chelsea’s opening goal, and then fell to pieces for a short while afterwards.

* So there’s no avoiding it any longer. Time to discuss the goalkeeper. Hart has made seven errors that have led to goals since the start of last season, more than any other keeper in the Premier League. I was amazed that people are sharing the blame for Chelsea’s winner, when for me it lies squarely at one man’s feet. Hart may well claim that he shouted it was his ball, but the fact is it wasn’t and he should never have been anywhere near the damn thing as Nastastic headed the ball back in his direction, having been in control of the situation right up to the point that his goalkeeper flew past him. What on earth was he thinking? It just did not require his intervention, unless he thought the windy conditions were going to defeat his team mate. I mentioned in my CSKA match report that he has a tendency to come flying out of his goal every now and then and make “nothing” challenges. He did it for CSKA’s goal, and now it has really cost the team. I also commented that he had got over his bad spell and was looking back to his best – and then he goes and does this. The chances of Malaga’s goalkeeper following his old manager north increases once more.

* I wouldn’t say Nastastic was entirely blameless however. He was concentrating on the ball, but he must have seen out of the corner of his eye a big green man flying his way. A header anywhere else wouldn’t have resulted in a goal, but it was laid on a plate for Torres. So, so frustrating.

* And no wonder that Pellegrini was fuming afterwards. All the good work undone and Mourinho being his usual graceless self. They don’t seem to be the best of buddies.

* It was nice of Mourinho to say that City are the best team in the league – but you can take anything he says with a mountain-sized pinch of salt.

* Now Mourinho might be a grade-A ***** (choose your own swear-word), but Pellegrini should still have shaken his hand. The only surprise is that the media haven’t made a bigger deal of this today, because as we have seen in the past, failing to shake the opposition manager’s hand has been likened to serial killing, drink-driving or even spitting.

* Silva, Aguero, Fernandinho – all excellent once more.

* My memory of this is vague (drink had been taken) – but didn’t Terry elbow Aguero in the back of the head at one point, in the penalty area?

* And it’s reassuring to know that the Premier League’s old guard still influence games as they see fit. A quick word from John Terry in Howard Webb’s ear and ten seconds later Pablo Zabaleta was booked for an innocuous challenge.

* The fact is that City have played well for the vast majority of games this season, but individual errors are costing the team dear. The players must take responsibility for this. If the mistakes can be cut out, it is not too late to make up lost ground. United fans will point out that City are only two points ahead of an oft-criticised United team, but I would offer in Pellegrini’s defence the fact that because we have often played well, we seem more capable of going on a good run and getting back up the table. But only time will tell.

* And what might help City is that this could be one of the most competitive leagues in over a decade or more, and thus the winning points total might not reach the dizzy heights of previous seasons. Maybe.

* So now it is necessary to put a good run together. City have plenty of winnable games coming up, and can make up ground if they put this bad result behind them and move on. Some of the fringe players will get the chance to stake their claim at Newcastle on Wednesday. Pantilimon will start as was always planned and the media will shriek at it being a sign that Joe Hart’s days are numbered.

* But if you think Hart had a bad game, then it’s nothing compared to the Freiburg keeper against Hamburg this weekend. Now THIS is a bad game: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NtBWefg5md0&feature=youtu.be

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