Chelsea were the underdogs going into the match against Manchester City, but they came out on top after the final whistle, after having secured perhaps the most convincing 1-0 win possible, that too at Manchester City’s own turf. And here’s how Mourinho worked his magic in two simple ways.
Shackling Yaya Toure
Mourinho knew the damage that Yaya Toure and Fernandinho can do through their powerful runs and passing in the middle of the park. Fernandinho’s injury made it easier for him, in that he only had to shackle Toure to stop Manchester City’s dominance in midfield. Toure is capable to running with the ball from deep, and that was going to hurt Chelsea the most.
Not only did he use Nemanja Matic and David Luiz as double screens in front of his defense to tackle with the threat of David Silva, but he also gave Willian the express instructions of tracking down Yaya Toure every time he had the ball. And the Brazilian executed the plan superbly.
Toure was always looking to receive the ball deep in his own half and power forward with the ball. His vision and ability to pick out a pass in the opposition half meant that if afforded time on the ball, Toure could unlock the defensive setup that Mourinho had gone in with.
However, Willian was tireless in his tracking back as he was snapping at Toure’s heels within 5 seconds of him receiving the ball, irrespective of where Willian was when Toure received the ball. This tactic meant that Toure could not move forward as freely as he would otherwise like, and it gave Luiz of Matic the time to gang up on him and force him on the ball. Although Chelsea did not always manage to win the ball off him, the constantly hassling meant that Toure had no time to put his head up and pick out a pass, reducing the threat posed by a Manchester City attack bereft of Sergio Aguero’s trickery in the box.
Counter-attacking with purpose
In the pre-match build-up, I talked about three reasons why Chelsea could win the game, where the third reason was City’s vulnerability on the left flank. Jose Mourinho, being the master tactician that he is, exploited this weakness to the fullest.
As usual, when the ball broke, Alexander Kolarov was often caught up field, leaving a huge pocket of space for Chelsea to attack. Considering the fact that City pushed forward into Chelsea’s half, skipper Vincent Kompany was the only City defenders left in his own half at times, which meant that Chelsea were always a threat from the counter attack.
Secondly, instead of parking the bus and playing for a draw, Chelsea were very committed on the counter, pushing up the front four whenever they got a chance to break. As a result, with all City players pushing up to press, they were outnumbered in case of a counterattack.
In fact, Chelsea made a conscious effort to push their 4 attackers in front every time they attacked, even if it was a slow buildup, dispelling all suggestions that Mourinho would revert to the same ‘19th century’ tactics that West Ham employed on their visit to Stamford Bridge just a few days earlier.
If we look at the goal Chelsea scored, they again had 4 players in the box, affording more options to Harard (on the ball) to pick out. Once the shot from the cutback was blocked, it allowed Ivanovic to rifle home the winner from the edge of the box since City defenders were busy tackling the threat of the four Chelsea attackers in the box.
The loss in itself will not hurt Manchester City as much as they way they were tactically outfoxed by Mourinho. It will provide the blueprint for other teams to neutralize City’s threat, but it will all be down to the execution. Mourinho, it seems, has shown the way yet again.
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