As Manchester City proved they can mount a title challenge Chelsea looked tired and apprehensive… improvement must come quickly or last seasons progress will be crushed by Frank Lampard’s sacking
- Chelsea were steamrolled by a free-flowing Manchester City on Sunday evening
- The Citizens proved they has what it takes for a title challenge with the 3-0 win
- Meanwhile, the Blues are in need of a rapid turnaround to save Frank Lampard
Not able to play last midweek at Everton, Manchester City were only required for half of this game. By the midway point it was all over.
By then we had already seen what we needed to from City – signs of a resurgence, of fight and of life. From Chelsea we saw what we feared we might. They look like a team in reverse, a bunch of players cowed by the responsibility of what is supposed to be a rebuild.
City really were lovely to watch during a spell of half an hour as early evening fell in west London. They were swift and fluid and deadly. Chelsea merely looked like the rest of the nation currently feels. Tired and apprehensive.
Manchester City ran riot against Chelsea in a powerful first-half at Stamford Bridge
Frank Lampard is left with a team who look devoid of form and in need of a rapid boost
Chelsea’s starting XI is full of players struggling for form or finding it difficult to adapt
We would expect a genuine title challenge from Pep Guardiola’s City after this. Following the postponement of last Tuesday’s game on Merseyside, City’s fixture schedule looks daunting but nothing else should alarm them.
Not Liverpool, not an improving Manchester United. Even with players missing – they lost six to Covid 19 for this game – they are good enough.
Chelsea and their manager Frank Lampard cannot dare to look that far ahead. They have won one of their six Christmas and New Year games and lost four of the other five.
Four points from eighteen have taken them south and if Southampton take anything from tonight’s home game with Liverpool Lampard’s team will be ninth in the Premier League.
City will hope to use the convincing west London win to begin building a strong title challenge
The worry for Chelsea is that this was not even close. They were only competitive for quarter of an hour. Once City took the lead through Ilkay Gundogan Chelsea fell apart.
This is not an easy time to play football. As the country slogs desperately against the Covid tide, a little of that struggle is beginning to be reflected on fields across the land. Weary players asked to play and live in an alien environment look like they are feeling the weight of the challenge in their minds and legs a little.
So it will be the strongest who propel their teams forward until we enjoy better days and Chelsea simply didn’t have enough of them here.
Playing without a natural centre forward – Timo Werner was asked to fulfil the role – they were given absolutely no platform by a midfield trio of Mason Mount, N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic.
N’Golo Kante didn’t look like the one-of-a-kind player we’re used to seeing at Chelsea
Mount looks to have a future at Stamford Bridge, a young player who should continue to improve. But Kante looks half the steady, easy player we know and love while Kovacic simply waded through concrete in this game. By the time the second half rolled around, he may as well not have been playing.
Robbed of the ball by City’s Rodri in the 51st minute, Kovacic couldn’t summon the will to chase. City could have scored. Then, after failing to tackle Gundogan successfully just after the hour, the Croatian turned away with his arms raised, a little like a toddler denied his favourite rattle.
Soon after he was booked for a foul on Kevin de Bruyne and 13 minutes from the end he was taken from the scene. In terms of body language, none of it was good.
And that was reflected through much of Lampard’s team. His front three of Werner, Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech did not lay a glove on City’s back four while at the other end of the field their tall central defender Kurt Zouma was twice outmuscled by the smaller Phil Foden, who was excellent.
Pundits savaged Chelsea for their lack of grit in defence, looking like a team lacking focus
Lampard’s post-match countenance was one of simmering agitation. He knows what he has seen in recent setbacks against City, Arsenal, Wolves and Everton and he knows that it is in danger of becoming the norm. If it does then he will be gone.
We are not that stage yet and we should not be either. Lampard made a relevant point when saying it took City years to reach the levels they occupy now.
But equally he will know that this was a bad way to lose a football game. There were times in the first half when City looked as though they could score at will. The third goal was particularly bad, Kante giving the ball away in the centre of the field only to realise there were no team-mates behind him as sky blue shirts flooded up field.
When it was Chelsea’s turn – when they did have moments as City sat back in the second half – they did not show the necessary appetite or conviction.
Lampard needs to re-find his side’s form quickly to save the progress made last season
On one occasion they over loaded City’s defence on the left but when the ball was played across to the far post Ziyech had simply chosen not to attack the space. Only he will know why.
So Chelsea look like a side in need of a break and they are not alone in that. They will get one of sorts when they face Morecambe in the FA Cup on Sunday. Lampard will rest players for that and his team’s next game does not arrive until Friday January 15 at Fulham.
Lampard, then, has some time to work with his key players on the training field. It is a rarity this season and Chelsea look like a team in desperate need of it.
Improvement must come soon if all of last season’s progress isn’t to be crushed by the fall out of yet another change of Chelsea manager.
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