Verdict: Chelsea 2 Manchester City 0
Goals: Luiz 79 mins, Ramires 90 mins for Chelsea.
City’s impressive run of victories against Chelsea came to an end when David Luiz headed home a Didier Drogba free-kick and Ramires added a late second with Roberto Mancini’s side chasing an equaliser. After playing for an hour with ten men on Thursday, it was no surprise to see us fade after a decent opening period.
When City beat Chelsea earlier in the season, we were the first team to match them physically throughout the game. After a run of 11 games in the last 36 days that wasn’t the case here. Aside from Nigel de Jong, City’s midfield didn’t have the legs to compete with Chelsea over 90 minutes.
Carlo Ancelotti had rested key players during the week, and then went on to introduce Drogba and Anelka for the final quarter of the game to administer the killer blow. It was Drogba’s free-kick which Luiz – who had also had the midweek off – headed home.
Mancini may be taking a battering in the media after the match for his tactics and the team’s performance, but the real issues were the tiredness, injury to Tevez and quality of our personnel.
“Now, nothing has changed at this moment. We have eight games until the end and it is important for us to recover all of our players. We don’t have the Europa League anymore, so maybe we can do well in the last eight games.”
The manager can be criticised for overplaying the likes of Yaya and Silva in recent weeks. When their ability to influence procedings faded in the second half, City were pushed back. Had they not been playing in the Europa League this may not have happened. Hopefully their verve will return in the remaining games when our schedule is more manageable.
Of more concern is the standard of several of our signings. A game against Chelsea is an opportunity to measure the abilities of Kolarov, Milner and Dzeko, etc. They all cost huge sums and were bought with a view to being able to compete at this level. They didn’t.
Kolarov is slow on the turn, lacks acceleration and consistency with his passing. The scouting reports that recommend him failed.
Gareth Barry’s chronic lack of pace and energy isn’t going to improve now he’s turned 30. At best he would be a squad player in a top side. We’ll need better alongside de Jong next season.
Like Barry, James Milner excelled when playing in midfield under Martin O’Neill – a manager known to get the best out of the moderately talented. Milner’s limitations as a winger should have been picked up by our scouts. He ought to play there only in emergency or when we’re looking to close a game out.
The jury is out on him as a central midfielder as we haven’t seen enough of him there. It’s worth noting that the player himself sees his best position as central midfield. Against Chelsea, he could be forgiven for struggling while feeling his way back to full fitness.
Similar to Milner, James Boateng has stated his best position is in the centre of defence rather than at full-back. The German international was an unused substitute here and it remains to be seen what the future holds for him.
Dzeko is struggling to adapt to the English game and needs to be given more time. The poverty of his Premier League performances is still disappointing though.
If he needs a strike partner and a regular supply from the flanks, then he could be in for a tough time under Mancini. Hopefully Edin can add to his physical strength and be better able to hold the ball up, otherwise there will be fears of another Jo, and further questions asked of our scouting.
All of which makes the performance of David Luiz all the more galling. The Brazilian is a player Roberto Mancini was apparently keen to sign, only for others to decide against it. If we’re to successfully go head-to-head withe likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and United, then we need to get much better value for money in our signings.
This match felt like the culmination of a draining run of league and cup games. With the team looking tired in the second half, it was no surprise to see Mancini batton down the hatches. Tottenham’s draw the previous day ensured a point would have been satisfactory.
Defeat gives Chelsea the advantage in securing a top three spot, but all is not lost. With Adam Johnson back and the players now able to work on their conditioning between games, we ought to put in stronger performances in the remaining fixtures.