Once again, this upcoming weekend throws us more exciting Premier League matches. This time, Manchester City will travel to the capital to face leaders Chelsea, in a crucial fixture for both sides.
Thomas Tuchel’s team top the table after four wins and a draw, while City’s 0-0 result with Southampton leaves them a little further back in 5th place, with three wins, one draw and one defeat to their name. The two teams last met in the final of the UEFA Champions League. In a tight game, it was Chelsea who were victorious then in bringing back the trophy to Stamford Bridge.
Since then, both teams have evolved and enhanced their game idea through the work of their coaches. This is a key reason why, at the MBP School of Coaches, we have analysed the 4 tactical key points that will influence Saturday’s encounter.
1. Man City’s defensive transition vs Chelsea’s attacking transition
Pep Guardiola’s side is well known for their dominance in the attacking phase and in its different moments of the game. This factor is owed to the large number of players they always have around the ball, and the application of tactical concepts such as the width and depth of the shape.
But what happens when City lose the ball? As we have seen in the start to this season, the reigning Premier League champions have struggled after turnovers of possession, especially in the moment of progression and in the final third. These are both instances when the team provides maximum width, which makes it more challenging to press the ball after losing it, something which has been characteristic of the team over the last few seasons.
Therefore, against a team like Tuchel’s, which specializes in taking advantage of any opposition defensive imbalance through quick combinations, it will be key to see if the Catalan coach adapts his attacking structures in these moments of the game. Possible solutions could be accumulating more players behind the ball, in order to avoid any danger in these actions of the game.
2. Chelsea’s defence of the area vs Manchester City’s 5 forwards
One of the most impressive changes in Chelsea’s performances since Tuchel’s arrival to the club has been their defensive solidity. So far, after 5 league games, the Blues have conceded only one goal. Chelsea are now defined by their defensive structure of 5 defenders, where the three center backs that make up the center of the defence, together with the two or three midfielders that Tuchel uses depending on the match, make the Chelsea goal impenetrable for goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.
Collective behaviors in defensive tasks such as Individually defending the opponent in risk areas, Pressuring tightly to prevent the finish and Continuing to defend after the first phase of play are each executed to a very high level by the Chelsea back line.
However, there are few teams that attack with the number of players that City do. The Manchester side will usually have a line of 5 players in their attacking line, positioning themselves as wingers and strikers.
Therefore, it remains to be seen whether the German coach makes the decision to adjust his defensive structure or defensive behaviors, in order to maintain the same level of reliability which we come to recognize them for over the past several months.
3. The battle in the center of the pitch through the two different paradigms in structures.
Another key factor that will determine the course of the match will be the fight for the center of the pitch by both teams. Argubaly, Chelsea are a more structurally fixed team, with their rotation of positions less prominent than City’s.
Chelsea usually play with two or three midfielders at their base depending on the match and opponent. They also have their ‘false wingers’, who move into slightly more advanced positions and perform more attacking midfielder roles, in addition to being responsible for occupying the intervals and offering passing lines in progression.
In contrast, City are a much more dynamic team, using movement and interchanges of positions to a much greater extent than Chelsea. In trying to boss the center of the field, and in turn, be prepared to progress to the next moment of the game, it is not uncommon to see the inclusion into the midfield of one of the 2 full backs in the progression zone and even in the final third. This generates the advantage of creating a numerical superiority in the zone of intervention, without having to force one of the more advanced players to drop deeper.
4. The Individual quality as a determining factor
The importance of an individual player to unlock a defence in these types of tactically matched games is vital. Players like Romelu Lukaku and Kai Havertz for Chelsea, or Kevin De Bruyne and İlkay Gündoğan for City, will have to showcase their individual talent in order to try and swing the match in their favor. This may be through an individual action or by improving collective actions due to their star quality.
Likewise, we cannot forget players such as Ruben Dias, Thiago Silva and Cesar Azpilicueta, who, through their excellent defensive skills, are able to support their team in the most difficult moments of the game.
Now that we have broken down the 4 tactical key point that will have the biggest influence on the match, we can conclude that we expect it to be an amazing game between the 2 teams. Both the roles of the coach in the match planning and in their management of the team during the game, and also the individual qualities of the players in both sides, will be decisive in deciding Saturday’s huge fixture.