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The Regista - Chelsea vs Man City tactical review: How Poch played through Pep's press and found City's weak spot's tactics expert Connor Holden examines Chelsea's 4-4 thriller with Tottenham and argues manager Mauricio Pochettino has identified a key weakness in Manchester City's game.

In an eight goal thriller between the title holders and “struggling" Chelsea, the teams went toe to toe for 90 minutes, scoring four goals each in a brilliant game of football.

But what did Mauricio Pochettino do to match Pep Guardiola's City side, and play through their press? And why do Chelsea seemingly thrive more against “better" teams? Let's take a look...


One of the key factors for Chelsea was how they played through Manchester City's aggressive press, and how they found the space in behind the press to attack the final line of defence.

Something we haven't yet seen from Pochettino was using Enzo Fernandez as the deepest left-sided player in build up, filling into the left-back zone to play out from the back. This is reminiscent of how Toni Kroos is used for Real Madrid to build up play.



This meant that Marc Cucurella would push higher up as an option on the left, whilst Moises Caicedo would come over to create a triangle with Enzo and Cucurella to play out in the deep left areas, the idea of this was to bait Manchester City's press, in order to make quick passing sequences and find the likes of Conor Gallagher, Cole Palmer and Raheem Sterling popping up behind Rodri to attack the City defence.


Above is an example of this, as the triangle would be formed in the bottom left of the pitch, to then play through that aggressive Manchester City press, which included Bernardo Silva pushing up from a holding midfield position to pressure Caicedo and Gallagher.

This then meant if Chelsea could play through the initial press, they would find Rodri isolated as the only central presence in front of the defence, as the back four would drop off once that ball found its way into the space beyond the initial press.

Chelsea were targeting that sweet spot between the two lines of pressing, by looking to get into those zones in minimal actions and quick passing sequences that they had planned for this.

Sterling, Gallagher and Palmer made it very difficult for City to pick them up, as they would make different runs stretching the defence in order to leave that space between the first press structure and the defensive line. Sterling would often make runs to draw Kyle Walker wider, whilst Palmer would drift inside and attach to the likes of Manuel Akanji to try and draw them out of position, these interchanges made them hard to predict and created even more space for Chelsea, widening the distances between the City players.


This gameplan from Pochettino was set up to play to Chelsea's strengths against one of the best teams in the world, who coincidentally slightly struggle in this facet of play, which is transitions.

Manchester City are a team that want to have a lot of the ball, be patient in their play and minimise turnovers that leave them vulnerable, whilst Chelsea are a team that want to counter press when they can, and break quickly when they win the ball back to attack spaces left by the opposition.

This is where the likes of Gallagher shine, as he is an elite out of possession player, with an incredible engine and a powerful athlete. He is at his best when he can win the ball and instantly break on teams, striding into space and being tenacious. Palmer also showed why he is incredibly good transitionally as he can cover both central and wide areas in pressing patterns, and then make brilliant decisions quickly when breaking, making the correct pass, or retaining possession based on the field of play.


The way Manchester City play, starting in a 4-2-3-1 but rotating into a 3-2-5 in possession means they are there to be got at if they turn the ball over, due to the advanced positions of the other midfielders such as Bernardo Silva, and the retreating nature of the second player in the double pivot (in this instance Manuel Akanji) this leaves Rodri isolated in a single pivot and creates that space in transition between their front line and their back line, and this is where City can be hurt.

We even saw Guardiola bring Mateo Kovacic on later in the game to try and shore up that middle area that Chelsea had been exploiting, which shows how much they were dominating in those areas of the pitch.


In conclusion, Chelsea were brave throughout the game, despite going down on three occasions they fought back and continued to do what they set out to do, which prevailed in the end with a well earned point, and perhaps they deserved all three.

The mixture of Enzo dropping in during build up, the running power of Gallagher, Sterling and Palmer between the lines, and the patience from Robert Sanchez to wait for the City press to initiate so Chelsea could start their passing sequence to play through the press was vital to their performance, and you could see the entire team was on the same page to hurt Manchester City in their weak spots.

Overall it was a great tactical plan from Pochettino which the Chelsea team fully adopted and carried out well, however City are one of the best, if not the best team in the world, and still found a way to score four goals and get a draw.

This is a great step for Pochettino's Chelsea, beating Tottenham, drawing with Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City, now they need to work on their attacking patterns against low block opposition to take the next step and put more points on the board.

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Connor Holden

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