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On the 29th of May, 2021, Manchester City faced Chelsea in their first-ever Uefa Champions League final. A decade long wait was supposed to be over on Saturday night, but Chelsea broke millions of Citizens hearts. In a game where City were completely outplayed, Chelsea performed to perfection. The 1-0 scoreline does not accurately reflect what actually took place in the final.
So what went wrong?
Firstly, City struggled when they had the ball. Unsurprisingly, Man City had 60% of the total possession, where they lined up as a 3-1-3-3. When in possession, Zinchenko moved into left midfield, and Foden drifted into central. With Gundogan at the base, Manchester City formed a kite shape in the midfield with the wingers pushing high and wide to pin the opposition’s defence. However, this system lacked the most important part: the striker.
Because of the kite, the supposed false nine (Kevin De Bruyne) had no space to drop into, so he had to play as a conventional striker. This minimised his influence, as seen by his 37 touches before being substituted, after clashing with Rudiger, for Gabriel Jesus, who had 22 in half the time on the pitch.
Secondly, City’s attempt to break Chelsea’s 5-2-3 mid-block failed miserably. Werner sat on Ilkay Gundogan, and Rudiger practically blocked Bernado Silva from the game. The Portuguese had only 27 touches in the game.
Zinchenko, with his match-high 109 touches, failed to create a single chance from the left while Reece James pocketed Raheem Sterling.
Another obvious mistake Manchester City made was playing without a Defensive Midfielder. Due to a lack of this, they were caught out in transitions with lots of space in the midfield. Gundogan, who has had a terrific season, failed at this “defensive” role. He allowed huge gaps in midfield by getting dragged out of position regularly.
This also resulted in a faulty pressing structure. As Manchester City’s front-three stayed narrow to press Chelsea’s centre backs, resulting in the full-backs dealing with Chelsea’s wing-backs.
This, in turn, freed Chelsea’s attackers. This is exactly what led to Havertz’s first-half goal.
Manchester City also failed to deal with Werner’s positioning. With his brilliant off-the-ball running, Werner was able to drag Ruben Dias out of position time and time again.
In conclusion, Chelsea played a brilliant game, but this was an obvious example of Manchester City undoing themselves. Pep’s overthinking and faulty tinkering led Manchester City to shoot themselves in the foot and miss out on their first-ever Champions League title.