1 – Manchester City have definitely evolved since last season
The Manchester City side of 14-15 was a lot less solid and determined than the one we’ve seen so far this season. At the back they were fragile and unorganised; up top they were inconsistent and lacked that drive that saw them pick up Premier League titles in both 11-12 and 13-14.
However it looks as if Pellegrini has done some work over the summer on galvanising the team and getting them to work together as a much stronger unit. Both defensively and offensively, the team has an air of refreshing ambition and fight about it that will definitely aid them in their bid for the league title.
New signings in Sterling and possibly also Otamendi will add strength and depth to the squad and will give them new dimensions at either ends of the pitch, keeping them hard to predict – something they exhibited strongly in previous title runs.
2 – There are still problems left over from last season that need to be addressed for Chelsea
A lot of the problems that have reared their head so far this season for Chelsea are ones that remain from seasons previous.
As mentioned last week, the right flank is still the problem area. City doubled/tripled-up on the Chelsea right side during the game and this gave them an important overload in their final third, that allowed them to dominate with their illustrious attack force. Ivanović often became isolated and was left stranded, allowing Silva and Kolarov to whip ball after ball into the box and cause havoc for a Chelsea defence not in at all good shape.
Speaking of the defence, this is where Chelsea can be caught short. Lack of depth offers no rotation and thus leaves them predictable at times. The back four remains the same unless injury or fitness dictate so and this means teams like City can develop detailed game plans used to break it down with reasonable success – as shown in the victory this weekend.
The lack of pace, solidity and consistent shape gave Chelsea far too many problems and investment in defence is key for them over these next two weeks if they want to have a solid chance at retaining their crown.
This leads well into the final area that needs to be addressed – investment. After winning a first Premier League in 5 years, a safe bet was that Chelsea were going to invest further in their team, as well as bringing in some more quality youth that they possess, to capitalise on their strong position. Being linked with players liked Pogba, Bale, Griezmann et al set the benchmark for what was set to be a summer that could consolidate the Blues’ place at the summit of the Premier League.
However, the summer of 2015 was a below average one for the Blues. The only signings were Falcao and Begović, both to cover up the departures of Drogba and Čech respectively. The same with Baba Rahman, signed just only recently, covering the return of Filipe Luis back to Atletico Madrid. This added no depth to the Chelsea squad and kept it predictable, as the first XI remained the same and allowed opposing teams to analyse and prepare for games against the Blues a lot easier – as shown so far this season.
These all combine to hinder Chelsea this year, and until they are addressed with reasonable urgency and efficiency, the Blues will be finding this year a lot tougher than last.
3 – Asmir Begović appears to be an impressive understudy for Thibaut Courtois
This was perhaps the main (if not, only) true positive point to take away from the game for Chelsea fans. Filling in for suspended keeper Courtois after his sending off in last week’s home draw with Swansea City, not many Chelsea fans were expecting such a top quality performance from the Bosnian, given that he’s only been with the team for a number of weeks.
In the first half alone he pulled off some fantastic saves that, despite going 1-0 down to a well-executed finish from Agüero, kept Chelsea in the game.
Even though the final score showed he conceded 3, there was little to do about any of the goals. A truly world class keeper may have got a hand to them and possibly kept them out with heightened reactions. However for the most part, it was a very impressive display and Chelsea fans can find comfort in the fact that they have a top level back-up keeper. Expect him to always be challenging Thibaut Courtois for a first team place.
With that being said, it’s still early doors for both clubs and there is time and room to change or improve, whichever necessary. Errors can be corrected and cracks can be paved over and filled in.
Manchester City’s next game is away at Goodison Park v Everton on Sunday on 23rd August. Chelsea play at the Hawthorns against West Brom on the same day – a team City dispatched in stylish fashion on the first Monday Night Football of the season.