Tactical Analysis | An Antonio Conte masterclass takes Chelsea 4 points clear at the top of the table

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Tactical Analysis | An Antonio Conte masterclass takes Chelsea 4 points clear at the top of the table

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Faizan Qadiri

12/03/2016

An Antonio Conte masterclass made sure that Pep Guardiola succumbed to his second loss in the premier league after a second half comeback by the Londoners. A Gary Cahill own goal was cancelled out by goals from Digo Costa, Willian and Eden Hazard completed a second half comeback for the Blues.

Man City XI (3-4-3) : Bravo (GK), Stones, Otamendi, Kolarov; Fernandinho, Gundogan; Navas, Silva, De Bruyne, Sane; Aguero.

Pep Guardiola decided to mirror Antonio Conte's successful 3-4-3 system, that he had been experimenting on for the last few games, for the heavyweight clash against the London side. Leroy Sane was the only surprise inclusion in the side, chosen to play as a left wing back.

Chelsea XI (3-4-3): Courtois (GK), Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill (c); Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso; Pedro, Diego Costa, Hazard

Chelsea stuck to the same formation that has brought them so much success over the last couple of months. Antonio Conte was forced into making a change to his successful midfield line-up due to an injury to Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas was given the nod to partner Kante in midfield.

Victor Moses could cost Chelsea the title

While no one can dispute the fact that Victor Moses is an excellent attacking wing back, he is certainly lax when it comes to tracking back. Whether he is just lazy or he doesn't sense the danger, Moses was not able to perform his defensive duties to the standards that one would expect from an Antonio Conte side. On multiple occasions, he failed to track runners and was constantly outmuscled by City players. City's game plan was an obvious one as they put the ball out wide to Jesus Navas, who would in turn, cross the ball to the far post targeting the Nigerian player.

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The first error that the former Wigan player committed was off a set piece on the right wing. Moses was marking Fernandinho at the top of the box, but once the ball was played in by Kevin de Bruyne, Moses made no effort to track back with the City midfielder. Fernandinho put the ball into the back of the net but replays confirmed the referee's decision of disallowing the goal for offside. The second error was an even worse one. Leroy Sane was on the left wing behind Moses when David Silva picked up the ball in the middle of the park. Sane made a run in behind the Chelsea wing back and was offered no resistance. It was a poor ball by the City player that saved Moses' blushes. Moses was then out-muscled by Aguero, but the Argentine striker was unable to put his header on target.

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City, too, looked uncertain at the back at times with Sane not providing enough support for Aleksandar Kolarov, who was playing on the left side of the back three. John Stones again failed to impress as he tried to dribble the ball past Costa in his own half, only to lose the ball to the striker. Fortunately for City, Costa's pass was intercepted and the danger was cleared. Stones then failed to mark Costa on a Chelsea counter as the Spaniard found himself in space on the penalty spot. Had Moses' delivery been better Chelsea would take the lead in the first half itself.

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While the three centre backs for Chelsea performed well in the first half to stop the talented City front line, they were certainly lucky on occasions. Their luck ran out at the end of the first half when Navas put in a cross for the umpteenth time and Cahill, for some reason, decided to clear the ball with his right foot rather than his left. Due to the poor connection, the ball deflected past Thibaut Courtois into the back of the net to give City the advantage going into the second half.

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Chelsea's blistering pace too hot for City to handle

City had two great chances early on in the second half to put the game to bed but the Citizens failed to convert both. First, Aguero dispossessed Cahill before going round the keeper, but Cahill redeemed himself by blocking the shot off the goal line. The second chance was a much simpler one as a brilliant Navas cross found de Bruyne in space, no points for guessing who left his man, but the Belgian somehow managed to hit the crossbar when it would have been easier to score.

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Chelsea made a change at half-time bringing on Willian to replace Pedro and it proved to be a masterstroke, but it wasn't evident initially. Chelsea turned the tide through Costa, who ran off Ottamendi to be found by a delightful long ball by Fabregas. The former Atletico man brought the ball down on his chest, came back onto his right foot and put the ball past the Claudio Bravo in the City goal. A few minutes later Guardiola made a surprising change bring on Gael Clichy to replace Sane for the last 20 minutes.

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After the goal, Chelsea decided to sit back and invite pressure and play on the counter. The plan worked like a charm as Chelsea took the lead a minute after the Sane substitution. From a City attack, the ball fell to Hazard from a Fabregas clearance. The Belgian passed the ball off to Costa near the halfway line. Costa let the ball run across his body, taking Ottamendi out of the game and passing the ball into space ahead that Willian was running into. The Brazilian was too fast for Kolarov and he managed to produce a finish at the end of the run.

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The Blues continued to play like the Chelsea of old, that sat back after taking the lead. The third goal game off a counter as well when a Marcos Alonso long ball found Hazard free and again it was Kolarov who was caught in a race with the Belgian. Hazard produced a consummate finish at the end of the move to cap a memorable win for the Blues.

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Guardiola got it wrong today

Guardiola decided to mirror Chelsea's system, ditching his own successful system which was really odd. Whether it was out of respect or fear, we might never know but it is unlikely that he will try it again. One thing that caught the eye was the substitutions that Guardiola made today. The Catalan decided to bring on Clichy at a time when Chelsea were there for the taking. The former Arsenal defender had virtually no impact on the game, offensively or defensively.

After the second goal, Guardiola decided to ditch the 3 at the back and go to a 4-1-3-2, introducing Yaya Toure and Kelechi Iheanacho for Ilkay Gundogan and John Stones. Fernandinho was played as the defensive midfielder, while de Bruyne and Toure played on either side of Silva. Both full backs, Navas and Clichy bombed down the wings as Aguero and Iheanacho led the line. The team looked better playing in their usual system and it was just the Hazard goal in injury time that well and truly ended the game.

This was City's first home loss under Guardiola but the suspensions to Aguero and Fernandinho could have a lasting impact on their season

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