With one eye on the FA Cup match at Newcastle, the Manchester City Manager Pep Guardiola went without a striker and City were exposed.
There was something altogether too familiar about what happened to Manchester City in the 36th minute of this game against Chelsea. If a single moment can encapsulate a whole season then this was it.
A breakaway by Chelsea from a City corner saw Pulisic racing away but in front of him were assembled the converging talents of Benjamin Mendy and Ilkay Gundogan. Gulndogan gesticulated wildly for Mendy to leave the ball. He didn’t.
Instead Mendy passed the ball away from Gundogan and into the path of Pulisic, leaving both for dead and Pulisic with a one on one against City keeper Ederson.
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Before that moment, City had looked dominant, although susceptible increasingly to midfield runners who broke the defensive high line. City passed with precision and looked eager to secure the points.
The false number 9 tactic works by creating overloads but requires those in role to present an attacking danger when through but too often the moves were shipwrecked on the edge of the penalty area, lacking the final movement.
In the first half as City moves broke down there was some reluctance for attackers to track back, leaving Rodri exposed to try and put out multiple fires.
The second half saw a determined effort from City and Kevin de Bruyne brought the scores level with a sublime free kick. Nestled into the top corner with power.
City threatened to steal the game, hitting the post but the attacks left gaping holes behind. Chelsea overwhelmed the City defence and it took a goal line save by Fernandinho to keep the scores level.
In the day and age of VAR such indiscretions are not likely to remain unseen and Ferandinho was dismissed and Willian converted the penalty.
City showed heart to try and equalise again but with 10 men the task was so much harder.
In the end this was another defeat, reminiscent of the errors which have afflicted City all season. Carelessness, lack of concentration, whatever it is probably requires squad surgery to remedy.
Until then we have to hope we find ourselves in good moments as the season progresses otherwise it will turn out to be a disappointing campaign. Two trophies and a European place are still to play for, but City will need better performances than this ahead if we are to taste further success this season.