Tactics Review: Chelsea 1-1 Man City
Jose Mourinho’s approach to this game was encapsulated in his decision to start with the pacy Loic Remy instead of Didier Drogba. He probably anticipated that City would be attack-minded with a high defensive line so Remy offered a better option in terms of running in behind. The overall plan was to simply avoid defeat before anything else.
Chelsea had to attack with caution, with Cesar Azpilicueta rarely pushing beyond the halfway line from left-back while Nemanja Matic and Ramires alternated in going forward to ensure that there were at least four Chelsea players at the back when they had possession.
The Blues still attacked in their usual 4-2-3-1 formation with Branislav Ivanovic supplying width down the right flank while the right attacking midfielder, Willian, drifted inside to join Oscar in floating in between the lines. Eden Hazard had to keep the width on the left flank as usual, while Remy completed the attacking formation as the centre forward.
When out of possession, Chelsea had to contain City in a 4-5-1 formation with Oscar defending just behind Remy. Matic and Ramires dealt with the space in front of the back-four to deny David Silva the space in dangerous areas, while Hazard and Willian pressed from the sides of those holding midfielders to form a flat line of four midfielders.
Manchester City tactics
As was to be expected in a big away game, Manuel Pellegrini took some precautions as he started with his best full-backs in defensive terms, plus James Milner instead of Stevan Jovetic down the left flank to deal with the threat of Ivanovic.
The Chilean manager still detailed his side to dominate possession, keep play in the offensive half and release the full-backs all the way to the final-third as they usually play.
That meant that when in possession, Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichelis had to hold a high defensive line with Fernando sitting in front of the centre-halves as a holding midfielder, while full-backs Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna pushed forward down the flanks to link up with the wide attacking midfielders.
Fernandinho had the freedom to support play from central midfield while Silva floated in between the lines looking to affect the game just behind Sergio Aguero. Jesus Navas kept the width down the right flank as a right attacking midfielder but James Milner had the freedom to drift centrally and push forward from midfield to support Aguero.
When out of possession Silva had to join Aguero up top in leading the high pressing in a 4-4-2 defensive formation. Milner and Navas pressed from the sides of City’s midfield while Fernandinho dropped alongside Fernando to complete the four in midfield.
Key tactical changes
In the second-half, Chelsea seemed to feel the effects of the extra-time they played in midweek as they started to defend deep, which gave City the initiative. The Citizens had some impressive build-ups, especially on the right flank with Navas, Fernandinho and Sagna teaming up to cause Chelsea problems from that side.
In the last 15 minutes, Pellegrini tried to increase pressure on Chelsea by sacrificing holding midfielder Fernando to introduce Frank Lampard in the central attacking midfield position. Silva pulled out wide left but still with the licence to roam centrally, while Milner dropped to operate alongside Fernandinho in central midfield.
In that last period, Mourinho killed the game by introducing Gary Cahill in central midfield to double-pivot with Matic while Ramires pushed up. Even though City looked more dangerous, Chelsea restricted them to few clear cut changes so a draw seemed a fair result.