Liverpool may have enjoyed a convincing 3-0 win over Bournemouth on Saturday but they will be more nervous than ever now as a rampant Manchester City side are in hot pursuit of the Premier League title.
The reigning champions demolished an insipid Chelsea 6-0 at the Etihad Stadium with Sergio Aguero scoring his 11th hat-trick in the English top flight – levelling Alan Shearer’s record.
Maurizio Sarri had no answer as Raheem Sterling opened the scoring four minutes in after Chelsea’s defence switched off – and remained that way. Two from Aguero and one from Ilkay Gundogan left the visitors trailing 4-0 after 25 minutes.
The Chelsea boss didn’t seem to make any notable changes in strategy at the break and Aguero converted from the spot early in the second half before Sterling rounded off the scoring 10 minutes from time.
Here, we grade the performances of both sides in our report card.
City – Sensational Serge
There’s plenty to choose from but we’d be remiss not to highlight Aguero’s frightening form. The Argentine missed an absolute sitter – probably one of the most glaring of his career – early on when he failed to slot Bernardo Silva’s excellent pass across goal into an empty net from close range. His response? A thumping effort from 25 yards to really put City in control before going on to complete his second hat-trick in three games and level Mohamed Salah at the top of the scoring charts with a tally of 17.
Aguero looked disappointed to come off in the 64th minute with the damage done and understandably so, as Chelsea were there for the mauling. He was a nightmare for the centre-backs to pick up as he dropped off and ran in behind intelligently. His contribution off the ball was also commendable, helping to cut off passing lanes and keep Chelsea pinned back, forcing turnovers.
Chelsea – Schoolboy errors
There’s little room for error when you’re playing the champions, especially with the form they’ve been in lately, but Chelsea’s casual defending cost them dearly. For the first Marcos Alonso lazily motioned – to no one in particular – to pick up Bernardo out wide from a free-kick while he ambled into the crowd in the middle. Unsurprisingly, his team-mates didn’t heed his warning and the Portuguese took full advantage.
Sloppy misplaced passes inside their own half were responsible for other goals, including a passage of play that saw a poor David Luiz headed clearance woefully nodded back by Ross Barkley for a gleeful Aguero to bag his second. Then, a clumsy foul on Sterling – who had been dribbling past players for fun – from Cesar Azpilicueta saw the Argentine score City’s fifth from the spot.
TACTICAL TALKING POINT
Intensity and breaking through the lines
In many ways, Chelsea’s play is the mirror image of City’s philosophy, devoid of one crucial element – intensity. With a possession-heavy style, there’s a fine line between ponderous and irresistible and City are regularly on the right side of it, Chelsea aren’t.
The other aspect of their passing game that Sarri failed to implement in this fixture is the ability to break through the lines. The away side were often boxed in as their midfielders came short and they tried to play their way out from the back, with City doing well to cut off passing lanes and repeatedly winning possession.
When the hosts played out from defence, the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan were positioned up field. Centre-backs John Stones and Aymeric Laporte were positive with their passing, fizzing the ball into the midfielders’ feet. That saw City instantly break through Chelsea’s press and earned them plenty of inviting scenarios against their exposed back-line.
For City: A+
They started like a house on fire and took the game away from the opposition in no time. The passing was slick, movement mesmeric, pressing relentless and defending dominant. City are quite simply playing like champions.
For Chelsea: F
The flaws in Sarriball were evident early on and as the season has progressed teams have learned how to expose them. City were ruthless in their efforts and Chelsea – as ever under Sarri – had no Plan B.
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