City make huge statement as Guardiola controls Chelsea
Kevin De Bruyne’s 67th winner away to the Premier League champions earned Manchester City all three points in the biggest Premier League match of the season so far. It was a victory City completely deserved, and one that will send a huge statement to the rest of the league, writes Jamie Braidwood.
It wasn’t the enthralling contest, full of goals and incident, that many had hoped for, but that’s just what Pep Guardiola wanted. Against Chelsea, Manchester City produced perhaps their most complete and controlled performance of the Guardiola era. It was a statement, and a timely one. A win away to the Premier League champions to take City to the top of the table ahead of the international break.
All of this without the injured Sergio Aguero, the eternally absent Vincent Kompany and, crucially, Benjamin Mendy, the club’s only recognised left back. In came Fabian Delph who filled an auxiliary role in between midfield and defence. Ghosting everywhere, he made the position his own and looked solid alongside the much criticised partnership of John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi, and the impressive Kyle Walker.
Certainly, it was a makeshift back four that perhaps last season would have been exploited by the pace and trickery of Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and others. Alvaro Morata looked bright early on and who knows how different things could have been if he did not succumb to a muscular injury in the first half.
But regardless, City were defensively solid throughout. Stones and Otamendi are fine defenders who last season were often left exposed by City’s open, attacking play. From conceding four in games away to the likes of Everton and Leicester, City have now only conceded two in seven league games, as well as keeping two clean sheets in the Champions League.
If the unpredictability of the Premier League caught him by surprise during his first season, it now seems that Guardiola has placed greater emphasis and importance on his sides ability to control games. It was, of course, Barcelona’s greatest strength during his time there, with Xavi, Iniesta and Sergio Busquets allowing his side to dominate possession, but in the Premier League it was always going to be slightly different.
City controlled and dominated Chelsea, but that is not to say they were boring. They are a team blessed with the combination of thrilling speed and subtle guile. With a forward line of Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling ahead of the craft of Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva, City were exciting to watch. It seemed that a goal could come from anywhere at anytime and in the 67th minute it did.
“We are lucky to have him”, said Guardiola afterwards, talking about, of course, De Bruyne. It was his goal, a rising, powerful left footed strike from outside the box, that made the difference again. He was central to everything City did and will be imperative to any success they have this season.
Harry Kane continued his extraordinary form on Saturday with another two goals in Spurs’ 4-0 away win over Huddersfield. After not scoring in August, Kane finished September with 13 goals from seven Spurs games and two England internationals. The England striker is scoring at the rate of Messi and Ronaldo and at the moment, he can be compared to no one else.
Crystal Palace extended the worst start to a Premier League season with a 4-0 away defeat to Manchester United. The Eagles have now lost all seven of their opening games and are still yet to score a league goal. To be fair, Roy Hodgson’s first two games in charge away to the Manchester clubs were as hard as they get but things will not get any easier in their next game at home to Chelsea. Still, a goal would be nice, but with the injury to Christian Benteke leaving Palace with no fit strikers, that seems unlikely.
Ronald Koeman is feeling the heat at Everton following another home defeat. Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Burnley leaves Everton in 16th and with four defeats from seven games. On Monday Koeman received the backing of Everton majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri, but with Carlo Ancelotti available and reportedly seeking a return to the Premier League, how patient will he be?
A word on Burnley though, they have now taken an incredible eight points from away matches to Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool and Everton and have made their best ever Premier League start. Perhaps Everton will be having a look at Sean Dyche, too.