Chelsea’s extraordinary record of keeping clean sheets under Thomas Tuchel means it is rare for the team to be asked to fight back from going a goal down in a game, but the Blues did just that on Saturday evening to record a third Premier League win in a row and move into third in the table, and inflict defeat on Manchester City for a second time inside a month.
It is the first time under the German head coach that we have turned a losing position into a winning one, with second-half goals by Hakim Ziyech and Marcos Alonso completing the comeback, having conceded just before half-time.
After the match, Tuchel said there had not been a tactical problem during what was a largely uneventful first half, only that his team had been on the wrong end of a bad few minutes before half-time, during which as well as the City goal we conceded a penalty which Edouard Mendy saved and lost Andreas Christensen to injury.
That meant the introduction of Kurt Zouma but there were no major tactical changes. Tuchel’s side simply played better and more positively after the interval.
From having had 45 per cent of the ball in the first half, by the end of the game we had turned that into 52 per cent of the possession in our favour.
There had been one Chelsea shot on target in the first half to the home side’s three, but after 90 minutes we had manged five and they had not added to their total from the opening 45 minutes.
Ziyech shift works
Our attacking players were prepared to take opponents on with more successful dribbles than Man City. Ziyech was top by that measure, with four dribbles, ably supported by Christian Pulisic and wing-backs Reece James and Marcos Alonso with two apiece.
Ziyech is usually asked to play on the right side of the two players supporting the central attacker, but yesterday at the Etihad he was most often on the left, with the inside-right role given to Pulisic, but the switch did not stop the Moroccan from doing what he did against City in the FA Cup semi-final – namely finding their net. On that day at Wembley he had been on the right of Werner, with Mason Mount more left.
In this weekend’s Premier League meeting in his new position, Ziyech fired three shots, all on target.
Coming at them from left and right
The importance of James’ attacking play from right wing-back yesterday was there for all to see as Chelsea made things happen down the Man City left, and he and Alonso spent more time in the opposition half than in their own.
James matched Ziyech’s game-high three shots attempted (City’s Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus also managed three) and he also registered three crosses and two key passes.
Alonso asked questions of City from the other flank with three crosses and two key passes of his own, plus two out of his two shots on target, the second of which won the game when the Spaniard arrived the middle at the right moment in trademark style. Timo Werner’s assist for that goal was his eighth in the Premier League, the club’s most this season.
It is a rare event to see the Chelsea net breached, Sterling’s strike was only the fourth goal conceded in 10 games since the West Brom aberration, and we restricted Pep Guardiola’s table-topping side to just four shots on target overall, one of those Aguero’s fluffed penalty.
Cesar Azpilicueta, returned to the back-three after recent outings at wing-back, stood out among the defensive statistics with three aerial battles won, six successful tackles (two more than any other player on the pitch) plus two interceptions, three clearances and one blocked shot, all without giving away a single foul.
Evidence of our team’s strength in the air overall is 10 aerial contests won to Manchester City’s five.
City have now lost 27 Premier League matches against Chelsea, more than they have versus any other side. Since Tuchel arrived, the Blues have collected 35 points to City’s 39 in that period.
We are unbeaten in eight Premier League away games for the first time since a run of 10 between April and December 2014.
By overtaking Leicester City who we host in the league in the second of our three remaining games in the competition, Chelsea are up to third place in the Premier League table for the first time in four months.