Manchester City 2-0 Chelsea: 4 Tactical Observations
The game was far from notable due to a torrid opening 45 minutes in which a tactical stalemate took place, then City made the difference with two moments of magic from two top, top players.
Let's take a look at four tactical talking points from the game.
A look at the prematch lineups and formations told us what kind of game we were likely to see.
Like many other matches where a 4-2-3-1 is pitted against a 4-2-3-1, a tactical stalemate ensued. The holding-midfield pivots solidified the defensive lines with ease, and the first half was a bit of a non-event.
This is precisely the problem Netherlands and Germany faced in Euro 2012 and precisely the problem Nigeria had when taking on Ivory Coast—if two teams play in a cagey fashion, they're almost impossible to break down.
Ramires, Chelsea Hemmed In
While Manchester City came flying out of the traps, Chelsea were very slow starters.
They played within themselves for a full 25 minutes as the Citizens controlled the tempo, and Rafa Benitez struggled to get his impact players into useful positions.
Roberto Mancini's men used the flanks and rinsed both opposing full-backs with frequency, dragging all of the Blues' attacking players back to help double-mark and stem the flow.
Speaking of Ramires...
It wasn't his day.
Chelsea struggled to get themselves forward, and a lack of vertical movement hurt them—attacks were few and far between, and Manchester City rarely looked troubled in defence.
Ramires, playing on the right side of midfield, was deployed in a wing role but played largely as a second right-back.
— Squawka Sports (@Squawka_Sports) February 24, 2013
His explosiveness was limited, and he went from potential key for Chelsea to a wasted outlet.
His touch was off on the day and didn't cover himself in glory, but without either of the Blues' Brazilians accompanying Frank Lampard in the midfield pivot, they looked rather limp.
Jack Rodwell—Still a Mixed Bag
Jack Rodwell's long-awaited return from injury was well-received, but it's fair to say we were surprised he started such a tough test against Chelsea.
With no match practice, he was always going to be a little rusty, so his missed headed chance and yellow card for a high challenge on Gary Cahill were to be expected.
What's promising for Roberto Mancini, though, is that he wasn't rendered nervous by either the lengthy off or the poor performances he produced beforehand.
Rodwell is capable of the box-to-box presence City need from a source other than Yaya Toure.
Great result. Hope Rodwell puts his injury problems behind him and gets a run in the team now.
— Dan Morehead (@Danny11M) February 24, 2013