Manchester City’s performance was dominant. Gabriel Jesus scored the only goal of the game but flattered the home side 1-0 at Stamford Bridge. It was a timely reminder that the Premier League champions are still the team to beat in this title race.
Chelsea’s favorite status made sense given that Thomas Tuchel had staged three of three wins against City. But a system change to include three midfielders set the tone too cautious. It seemed to infect his team’s approach.
“I didn’t feel the belief,” Tuchel said afterwards. “It was like we had something to lose. City didn’t score in the opening 45 minutes but they played all the football. Chelsea have struggled to find a way out of their own half. Tuchel is very right, but not that.
Jesus’ goal came via a deflection but was the culmination of heavy pressure, one of half a dozen attempts in the first 15 minutes of the second half. Chelsea, on the other hand, only managed one shot in the first hour. Ederson did not make a save game.
City have had their slips this season. The defeat at Tottenham. The dead end with Southampton. It was the feast or the famine. Aside from that shutout against the Saints, their other four home games this season have averaged five and a half goals.
It’s always the team most likely to overthrow their opponents, that’s clear. There have already been two 5-0 wins in this Premier League season. But would they run away from too many points?
That’s why it was such a huge moment, even in September. If City had lost, it was a day when Chelsea and Manchester United could have taken a six-point lead by the time Liverpool had the opportunity to do the same later in the afternoon.
Instead, they sit in second, one point off the top, having showcased some of City’s strengths at their best. Their pressure was relentless, aided no doubt by the fact that their dominance for long periods was so total that they were rarely out of possession.
Bernardo Silva led the way with an eye-catching display, emphasizing his importance from a defensive perspective. No one on the pitch made more tackles. No one on the field made more clearances. The intensity of his game makes him uncomfortable for others.
The pressure from City was such that the high line they were holding couldn’t be exploited. Timo Werner had been included for this reason, but his teammates had so little time and space that they had little hope of spotting passes that could have caused problems.
Romelu Lukaku was controlled by Ruben Dias – largely enough until a savage hack in Downtime. When Chelsea finally opened late, the Portuguese defender pushed back crosses. When Mateo Kovacic crossed he was there to block the shot.
The result is that Heung-Min Son’s goal that cheated Ederson on the opening weekend of the Premier League season is still the only one Manchester City have conceded in the competition. Last season’s top scorers also had the best defensive record.
There will be more tests and they will come soon. It’s Paris Saint-Germain this Tuesday. It’s Liverpool and the unique challenge of a crowded Anfield next weekend. But what this win over Chelsea showed is that Manchester City’s mentality will not change.
“The way we play every game, with incredible courage, at Stamford Bridge, at Anfield, at all times we try to play our game,” Guardiola said afterwards. “It makes me proud. “
A glance at the early betting odds for the Liverpool game suggests Manchester City will be a small favorite for this, again the title favorite. It’s another huge game. But the Premier League champions are getting into it after reaffirming their status.