Manchester City should worry us all

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There was a moment in the second half of Manchester City’s win against Chelsea – it was probably with about quarter of an hour to go, but perception in a featureless landscape can become difficult – when Aymeric Laporte passed the ball to Ilkay Gündogan near the halfway line. Gündogan rolled it back. Laporte knocked it back again. Gündogan nudged it to Kevin De Bruyne who turned, looked about for a bit, and gave it back. They exchanged a static one-two and then Gündogan rolled it wide to David Silva who controlled it, looked up, waited, yawned, waited some more and then as Cesc Fàbregas wandered up scratching his chin, played it back inside again. The yawning did not actually happen – not on the outside anyway – but the scratching the chin did.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Premier League. It might not be the best league in the world, but it is the most competitive. The great thing about it is that, on any given day, the team at the bottom can beat the team at the top. Nobody ever gives up. Everybody fights to the end, even if they are 3-0 or 4-0 down. Right.
There can be no sugarcoating and no excuses. Chelsea are not bottom of the league; they are fifth and likely to remain so. They were only 1-0 down. And they did not fight. There have been times this season when City have blown teams away. This was not one of them: here, they knocked Chelsea over with a weary sigh.
This was as insipid a performance as Chelsea have produced under Antonio Conte. The gap to Tottenham in fourth is five points, but on form it is light years. Speaking of a run of four defeats in their past five league games, four wins in their past 15 games, does not express just how bad Chelsea were, how uninspired, how limp. Other than N’Golo Kanté, suffering illness, dropping out for Danny Drinkwater, this was the same Chelsea lineup who had faced Barcelona and emerged with a creditable draw just 12 days earlier.
Here again was a 3-4-2-1 with Eden Hazard deployed as a false nine, but the coordinated counter‑attacking, the spring forward from 5-4-1 to 3-4-3, that had characterised them in that game was gone. Against Barça, the reasoning seemed to be that the pace and movement offered by a front three of Willian, Pedro and Hazard made it worth the absence of an obvious outlet from the back, somebody to hold the ball up and, apart from a spell in the first half when Chelsea could not get out, it largely worked. Here, it did not.
Perhaps City are just better than Barça. Certainly they never allowed Willian anything like the space Barça did – and if even Willian, so often a perverse barometer of Chelsea’s state of mind in that he seems to play better the worse things are going, has an off day, there really are problems. Conte described City as “unstoppable” and seemed relatively content with a one-goal defeat. “I am not so stupid to play against Manchester City open,” he said. But he barely played against them at all.
There were times when City seemed like an experienced matador embarrassed by the state of the bull they were being asked to fight. Long passages of the game were played at walking pace, City left to amuse themselves in the face of such supine opponents with increasingly complex patterns of passing: here a flower, now a boat, and look, Kevin’s done a crane. If their aim Brandon Dubinsky Jersey was to break records they succeeded – a Premier League best of 902 completed passes while Gündogan racked up an individual high of 167 completed passes out of 174 – but the numbers say little about the context.
When Rafa Benítez was criticised for passivity in Newcastle’s 1-0 defeat against City in December, it was at least understandable, a weaker side battening down the hatches Christian Dvorak Authentic Jersey and hoping the storm might pass. This was Chelsea. They are the defending champions. And it was miserable. It was barely football. And if this is the future, the Premier League has a major problem. cheap jerseys cheap jerseys cheap jerseys from china wholesale nfl jerseys


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