HEAD-TO-HEAD: Chelsea vs Manchester City - Are the Blues too defensive?

Manuel Pellegrini

Manuel Pellegrini has claimed that Chelsea play like a “small team” - but what do the stats say?

HEAD-TO-HEAD: Chelsea vs CityThe Man City boss came out with the quotes in the aftermath of Sunday’s 1-1 draw at the Etihad, with Chelsea setting up to claim a draw from the tough Premier League tie.

Having seen Pablo Zabaleta dismissed in the second half, the Blues took the initiative, scoring soon after through Andre Schurrle. Premier League leading scorer Diego Costa then hit the woodwork, and it seemed inevitable that the three points would be heading to West London, until Blues legend Frank Lampard scored a late equaliser.

Pellegrini was frustrated with the display, and voiced his concerns post-match, saying: “We played during 90 minutes against a small team trying to defend, trying to keep 10 players in front of their goal and [against] a team that wanted to win from the beginning.

“It was very similar to the Stoke team, with a big team playing against a small team with very good players, trying to defend, trying to keep the score [nil-nil]. They had nine players in front of their box. I said last week that it will be very difficult for us to defend the title because every team will play the way Chelsea did. I repeat that I think they had no intention to win the game. They came just to draw and they scored on the counterattack against 10 players.”

The concerns have been raised many times against both Chelsea and Jose Mourinho, notably following a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford last season that saw the West Londoner’s start the game without a recognised striker - although, it should be noted that Andre Schurrle, who started in attack, was used as a forward during his time in Germany with Mainz and Bayer Leverkusen.

The idea of Mourinho ‘parking the bus’ came to the fore, and he was openly derided after an outburst at Sam Allardyce, claiming the West Ham boss set his team up to play ‘19th Century football’.

Despite overly defensive displays in a number of important games last season, Chelsea did it with an impressive return, doing the double over City and Liverpool, and claim eight out of 12 points from Arsenal and Manchester United.

However, the claims this season seem unfounded, with Chelsea leading the scoring charts after eight games following a series of incredibly attacking displays.

  WonGoalsShots On TargetKey PassesBig Chance MissedGames
Chelsea 4 16 32 71 2 5
Man City 2 8 23 55 4 5

The Blues have won four of their five games played, scoring 16 goals from 32 shots on target. Not only are they creating more chances than City - who have just 23 in the same game time - but the London club are more clinical with their chances, netting exactly 50% of their attempts that find the target. City have also wasted more of their clear cut chances, missing four, whilst Chelsea have missed just two.

They are also willing to attack more, rather than just counting on good situations for goals, with 71 key passes far outweighing City’s attempted 55.

  GoalsShots On TargetKey PassesBig Chance MissedPossession
Chelsea 1 2 4 0 41
Man City 1 4 10 0 58

Pellegrini’s claims that Chelsea defend like a ‘small team’ can only be seen with truth in the game at the Etihad, when City dominated 58% of the ball, playing 10 key passes with four shots on target. Mourinho’s men managed just two attempts on target during the game, but both teams still only scored one goal apiece.

The Man City coach may be right to criticise Chelsea for setting up to defend at the Etihad, but it shows an incredible belief that football is a one-dimensional sport, whereby teams play in only one specific style.

This season, Chelsea have attacked when they need to attack, and have defended when they need to defend, and they sit unbeaten at the top of the Premier League table. Pellegrini may believe himself to be righteous with his opinion, but he is certainly far from being right.

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