The visitors faced a different challenge to those that they’ve faced so far during their rampant start to the season but they were more than a match for it, and the Blues nearly turned their early dominance into a goal when Thibaut Courtois produced a brilliant reflex save to deny Fernandinho.
Chelsea – who lost Alvaro Morata to injury in the first-half – forced Ederson into a couple of smart reaction saves down low but they failed to cause consistent problems for a well-drilled City defence.
It seemed just a matter of time until Guardiola’s side took the lead and it was worth the wait, with De Bruyne playing a quick one-two with David Silva before unleashing a stunning 25-yard shot into the net.
City nearly had a second late on when Gabriel Jesus’ fizzing effort was headed away off the line by Antonio Rudiger but it mattered not, and Chelsea now sit six points adrift of the Manchester sides.
15 – De Bruyne steals the show
There’s only one place to start.
Manchester City were once again indebted to Belgian talisman Kevin de Bruyne on Saturday after he popped up in the right place at the right time to finish off an intricate move with a brilliant 25-yard strike with his so-called ‘weaker foot’, earning City a deserved win in what was a thrilling encounter.
He was at the heart of everything good about the visitor’s play, making 131 passes in the midfield, supplying ten crosses, crafting six clear-cut chances and – ultimately – providing goal-scoring heroics.
De Bruyne was the figure of productivity all evening and Chelsea simply couldn’t contain him – not even the obstinate N’Golo Kante could keep him at bay – and he managed to create more chances than the entire Chelsea team combined (four) such was his ability to find the ball at his feet with regularity.
His effort took his involvement in City goals to 15 in 17 his last Premier League matches, a staggering amount, and if his importance to Guardiola was ever in doubt he re-enforced it in style at Chelsea.
38% – Manchester City stifle the hosts
Whilst De Bruyne and co. were tearing things up in attack a lot of praise has to be heaped on the shoulders of the Manchester City defence, who put in an all-round defensively solid performance.
Chelsea arrived at Stamford Bridge high in confidence after their dramatic away win at Atletico Madrid during the week but they couldn’t break down a solid City back-line, with the hosts managing just four shots all match – and just two after the 26th minute – as their attacking play was stifled.
To highlight just how dominant City were all match, Eden Hazard – who tore the Atletico defence to shreds in the week – failed to create a solitary chance all match, having little impact on proceedings.
Conte will know that his side were outclassed in all areas, with his side having their lowest amount of possession (38%) since the 2003-04 season, and he’ll know that he was tactically outmanaged by his Manchester City counterpart Guardiola – and he’s got work to do if they want to retain their title.
8 – Delph passes first real test with flying colours
And one man who was at the heart of Manchester City’s defensive efforts at Stamford Bridge was the unlikeliest figure of Fabian Delph, who has been handed a career reprieve under boss Guardiola.
Injury to Benjamin Mendy – who is ruled out of action for seven months after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee – has left the Blues with depleted options on the left side of defence, and the Spaniard experimented with Delph at left-wing back in the recent Carabao Cup win.
On that occasion it worked and, as such, the England international has all of a sudden become a critical first-team player at the Etihad, but he faced his biggest test so far against a strong Chelsea.
It’s fair to say he passed it with flying colours though, making five tackles and completing three interceptions as Delph – along with his defence – kept the hosts’ attacking threat to a minimum.
Whilst he doesn’t have the crunching tackles in his locker and the physical strength that the other City defenders have, his positional sense is second-to-none and he anticipated Chelsea’s every move.
Delph has shown himself to be a more than capable deputy for Mendy for the time being, so much so that the French international jokingly tweeted his concerns at how good his teammate was filling in for him, and this could be the beginning of one of the more unpredictable transformations for a while.
8 – Chelsea’s home form leaves daylight between the top
Whilst it’s certainly too early for the warning signs to start flashing around Stamford Bridge, the reigning Premier League champions need to be careful not to drop too far off the pace at the top.
Defeat against Manchester City means that they’re six points behind Guardiola’s side already after just seven games, and Antonio Conte’s side need to bounce back well after the international break.
Saturday’s defeat signalled the third time this season – in just four matches – that Chelsea have dropped points at home, already dropping more this year (eight) than the whole of last year (two).
Whilst there’s the argument that two of these games were against Arsenal and City, those are the type of games that you need to be winning to get yourself up there and challenging for the title when May comes around – and their inability to grind out a win at home should raise some alarms.
Three key takeaways from Crystal Palace’s transfer window
The summer transfer window drew to a close on Thursday.
Crystal Palace finished deadline day with the last-minute confirmation of the loan signing of Jordan Ayew from Swansea City. The Eagles finished the window with four total signings, but only spent a total of £9.5 million.
The south Londoners made do with a tight budget and held on to their crown jewel Wilfried Zaha, resulting in a successful summer. Here are three things we learnt from Palace’s transfer business.
Don’t believe the tabloid hype
The Wilfried Zaha saga was perhaps the most drawn out transfer rumour of the entire window, and as many Palace supporters had expected, it was completely unfounded.
Despite the numerous claims that Zaha had rejected a contract, was eager to leave to a supposedly bigger club, or was itching to play Champions League football, the Ivory Coast international remained at Selhurst Park.
The winger still has four years left on his contract, has spoken publicly about his love for the club, and will again be crucial to Crystal Palace’s success this season. Still an Eagle, Zaha’s status reveals the sensationalist nature of many tabloids that aim to create unrest when none is present.
Doing business on a budget is difficult, but not impossible
According to The Guardian, Palace’s transfer budget was restricted due to the high wages being paid to star players such as Mamadou Sahko and Christian Benteke. Yet, in the face of these barriers, the club managed to secure a number of canny deals at a low cost.
Ayew was brought in on loan, goalkeeper Vicente Guaita and midfielder Max Meyer were free transfers, and Cheikhou Kouyate was the only purchase of the summer at £9.5 million.
Four players of top quality for less than £10 million represents astute business, and Palace should be applauded for conducting decent deals on a shoestring budget.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s absence will be felt thanks to Chelsea‘s terrible transfer policy
Crystal Palace made it no secret that they were eager to bring Ruben Loftus-Cheek back to SE25 this summer, but unfortunately for both the club and player, Chelsea refused to let him leave.
On the face of it, it was an encouraging decision for Loftus-Cheek, as he would be finally handed consistent football at his parent club. Yet the loan signing of Mateo Kovacic from Real Madrid further pushes the England international down the pecking order at Stamford Bridge, leaving many to wonder why Chelsea barred him from a return to Crystal Palace.
In the end, the Eagles will miss his presence in midfield and will undoubtedly be frustrated to watch Loftus-Cheek wasting away on the Chelsea bench.
One to watch: Derby County’s 19-year-old midfielder Mason Mount
Introducing The Boot Room’s 2018/19 One to Watch series…
Mason Mount has arrived on loan at Derby County as a well-known quantity.
The Englishman spent a number of successful years in Chelsea’s youth academy, featuring under the Rams’ new assistant coach Jody Morris.
As a Blue, his progress has also been closely monitored by Derby’s new manager Frank Lampard, who was keen to bring Mount on loan after his stunning season in the Eredivisie with Vitesse.
“He’s creative, plays from central midfield in an attacking sense, scores, and creates goals,” Lampard said after the announcement that Mount would be joining Derby on loan this season.
These characteristics will be important for Derby who will once again be chasing promotion this season.
Mount is a dynamic threat in an attacking midfield role.
His ability to make correct decisions in attacking transition phases should prove crucial in unlocking the potential of the array of forward-thinking talent Lampard has at his disposal.
The 19-year-old is always looking to take risks to advance the ball and play attackers in behind the defence.
Similarly, he ensures routinely accurate delivery from set-pieces and is capable of scoring from dead ball situations himself.
Depending on the formation Lampard will look to play at Derby, Mount could also be suited to play as a number eight – his ball-carrying quality is another one of his strongpoints that would be particularly useful in such a role.
The 19-year-old has already proven his capabilities at senior level, but the Championship provides him with another chance to showcase his qualities to his parent club in a league with a different dynamic.
In saying this, Mount’s game should translate well to English football as it is not overly predicated on any particular style of football, nor is he reliant on a system being shaped around him. He is dynamic.
Derby should target Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham, hand him the number nine shirt
Derby County are set to embark on the dawn of a new era under the management of Frank Lampard.
Sky Bet Championship outfit Derby County recently unveiled their squad numbers for the 2018/19 campaign, on their official website, and the obvious omission from the list was the void of a number nine
The Rams have signed five new players this summer and it was thought in some people’s eyes that big-money recruit Jack Marriott, who arrived from Peterborough United, might be handed the famous shirt number
Marriott has taken number 14 and it leaves those of a Derby persuasion with a a sense of suspicion that boss Frank Lampard might not be quite finished in the transfer market just yet.
Ipswich Town striker Martyn Waghorn has been heavily linked with a move to the East Midlands, but given the money that the Tractor Boys are wanting to recoup for their star attraction, the Rams might be better off looking elsewhere to bolster their attacking ranks.
Lampard has already raided his former club Chelsea this summer to sign highly-rated youngster Mason Mount and a return to Stamford Bridge to request another favour might be in the Derby boss’ best interests, when it comes to signing a new striker.
Striker Tammy Abraham is not expected to get much of a look in under new Blues’ boss Maurizio Sarri and another loan move away from London could be on the agenda for the man who spent last season on loan at Swansea City.
In netting five goals from his 31 Premier League appearances at the Liberty Stadium he hardly set the league alight, but it is the form he showed during a loan spell at Bristol City that should tempt the Derby boss into a move for the talisman.
During his season-long stint at Ashton Gate he netted 23 goals from 41 games and was named the club’s Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year, demonstrating a devastating level of composure in front of goal at Championship level.
The Rams aren’t blessed with loads of pace when it comes to out-and-out strikers and Abraham’s youthful exuberance would make him a shrewd addition to Lampard’s new-look Rams squad, whilst a player of his ability would be more than worthy of wearing the number nine shirt.
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