Chelsea vs. Manchester City: 6 Lessons Learned from the Blues' 2-1 Win
In all honesty, it wasn't a dominating performance. Chelsea were rather evenly matched with Manchester City when it was 11 on 11.
But even after Gael Clichy was sent off, Andre Villas-Boas and Chelsea cautiously probed City's defense in the hopes of finding an opening rather than going for the kill.
In the end, though, it worked. Daniel Sturridge, who also set up Chelsea's first goal by skinning Gael Clichy, earned a penalty for Chelsea when his shot hit Joleon Lescott's arm.
Frank Lampard then coolly stepped up to convert the penalty that would doom City to their first league loss.
So what did we learn from this top-of-the-table clash? Let's find out.
Oriol Romeu Is a Champ
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Daniel Sturridge may have been the man of the match, but Oriol Romeu's performance in midfield made sure that Chelsea's weak defense wasn't exposed on too many occasions.
The 20-year-old's performance was shaky to start out the match, as he conceded possession poorly in his own half, but as the game continued, he established his dominance over Manchester City's midfielders and effectively nullified their attacks.
Then, as Chelsea grew in stature following Clichy's sending off, Romeu excellently distributed the ball and cleaned up possession as Chelsea continued to force the ball in.
Recently, Chelsea announced that Oriol Romeu's buy back clause is contingent upon Chelsea actually wanting to sell Romeu back to Barcelona.
If Romeu keeps up these performances, he better get used to life in London, because there is no way Chelsea will want to send him back.
He has performed significantly better than Mikel in the defensive midfielder role this season and may even retain his position in midfield when Michael Essein returns—if he keeps up his good form.
Gael Clichy: Still Error-Prone at Manchester City
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Since I've started writing for Bleacher Report, I've written numerous articles praising the abilities of Gael Clichy. I've talked at length about how Gael Clichy's defensive record as a left back is one of the best in the EPL and talked about how underrated he is as a defender.
And today, I looked pretty stupid for having that opinion.
I'm not saying this singular performance drops Gael Clichy down the totem pole of the best left backs in the world. If I'm Roberto Mancini, I still start him over Alexander Kolarov and if I'm Arsene Wenger, I still wish I had Gael Clichy to select in defense over Andre Santos and Kieran Gibbs.
But there is no denying that, based on this performance and others like it in the past, Gael Clichy is not at the level of the best left backs in the world like Ashley Cole, Eric Abidal, Patrice Evra and others.
Undoubtedly, the blame for City's loss to Chelsea falls squarely on Clichy's shoulders.
The left back got turned inside-out by Daniel Sturridge for Chelsea's first goal and then made it practically impossible for Manchester City to recover the lead in the game by getting himself sent off.
From there, City tried their best to hold on for a draw but were unable to, and thus crashed to their first league defeat of the season.
Mark Clattenburg: Way Too Many Cards
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Mark Clattenburg's performance in Chelsea's game with Manchester City today was quite reminiscent of Howard Webb's performance as a referee in the 2010 World Cup Final with Spain and the Netherlands.
Ultimately, no major incorrect decisions were made. Some people may think Raul Miereles should've gone off for a studs-up challenge on James Milner, but there was hardly any force behind the challenge, so much so that it could be argued a yellow card was almost too harsh for the challenge.
But towards the end of the game, Clattenburg's card-happy approach to the game bordered on ridiculous. Nearly every challenge made by a player of either side was met with a yellow card.
In the end, "only" seven yellow cards were dished out, including the two given to Gael Clichy. But had the game gone on longer, things could have very easily gotten out of hand.
In the future, Clattenburg would be wise to avoid handing out so many yellow cards and allow a little more leeway for rough tackles in a match as tense and important as this one.
Daniel Sturridge Definitely Needs to Be More Involved with England
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If you follow my work, you'll notice that once I get an idea stuck in my head, I generally push it whenever possible.
And so here is my latest idea.
Daniel Sturridge must be an England regular by Euro 2012.
The kid is the real deal—there's no doubt about it. Aside from Juan Mata possibly, Daniel Sturridge has been Chelsea's best player of the season.
His pace and dribbling has been a nightmare for many defenders, and today Sturridge added Clichy to the long list of defenders he's made look silly.
Back in October, I first made the case for Sturridge's inclusion on the back of Rooney's three-match ban (now two matches) for Euro 2012.
Now, even if Rooney is included, as he surely will be, it would be ridiculous if Daniel Sturridge were to miss out.
He recently made a substitute appearance as a right winger for England in their last friendly against Sweden, but if I were Fabio Capello's tactical adviser I would definitely advise him to play Sturridge alongside Rooney and see what happens.
Mark my words—such a combination would take England very far in Euro 2012.
Does Fernando Torres Have a Future at Chelsea?
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Another game for Chelsea, another day on the bench for Fernando Torres.
After a very rough stretch of results for Andre Villas-Boas and Chelsea, the Blues seem to finally be settling into a rhythm.
The 4-3-3 has allowed Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge the freedom to create scoring opportunities regularly, and Didier Drogba has converted a good number of them recently as well.
But while all this is good news for Chelsea, it has been very bad news for Fernando Torres.
The Spaniard, after a decent stretch of good form, is back to being out-of-form, and it seems AVB is tired of it.
Although he continues to promise Torres opportunities to shine, he seems firmly set on selecting Didier Drogba for Chelsea's important matches and was not even willing to send on Fernando Torres today when Chelsea were up a man and pressing for the win.
Instead, he opted for Frank Lampard, who continues to show his importance and value to the team by fighting for every appearance and converting the penalty opportunity when he was called upon.
And though Nicolas Anelka is now on his way to China, Torres still faces competition for substitute appearances up front from the likes of Florent Malouda and Solomon Kalou, the latter of which recently scored as a substitute in Chelsea's league match against Newcastle.
Will Fernando Torres be the next Andriy Shevchenko? That's the big question on every commentator's lips these days.
It's too early to tell, but with each passing week it seems there are more obstacles in the way of a miraculous recovery of ability for Fernando Torres.
Title Race Implications
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Following Manchester City's loss to Chelsea today, too many media outlets will likely hype up Chelsea, Manchester United and maybe even Tottenham's chances of upsetting the Citizens in the title race.
But this loss, on its own, changes little.
Gael Clichy represents Manchester City's biggest weak point, and today, Chelsea completely exploited him. But I don't expect that he'll be sent off again anytime soon.
There are still major questions to be asked about Chelsea's legitimacy as title contenders, as much still rests on the shoulders of the 33-year-old Didier Drogba, who has been very hot-and-cold himself this season.
Manchester United are surely back in the title race now, but they too need Wayne Rooney to keep scoring after his dry spell resulted in United's exit from the Champions League.
In my opinion, the league is still Manchester City's to lose. If they slip up again, in their league match with Arsenal for example, we can start ringing the alarm bells. Otherwise, Manchester City are still very much in the driver's seat in the EPL.
What do you think? What other lessons were learned from Chelsea's victory over Manchester City? And what about the lessons listed here—do you agree or disagree?
Share your opinion in the comments section below.