In big bold blue letters, the statement was clear to all. ‘Manchester City 6-0 Chelsea’ read all of the hoardings surrounding the pitch at the Etihad stadium, none of the Chelsea supporters – at least those who were still present in an increasingly deserted away section – nor the Liverpool fans gulping as they viewed from afar could miss this message, no matter how hard they tried.
This was City so incisive and so thrilling, mixing technique and composure to cut open a withering Chelsea. The worrying aspect is that the margin of victory could have been greater; it would be no exaggeration to say that this could have finished with at least four more goals.
Aguero sends Chelsea home feeling blue
“City, tearing cockneys apart again” sang the home crowd but even they had not seen such a demolition of a big London club like this. Pep Guardiola described the performance as the best he’d seen his side deliver at home during his time in charge. This was rather unprecedented.
What is expected though when City wrack up a feast of goals is that Sergio Aguero is deep in the thick of it all. Although he didn’t get City’s opener – that went to Raheem Sterling who put the hosts ahead inside four minutes by slotting the ball between goalkeeper and post – he took home the match ball having scored another hat-trick.
That is now 13 hat-tricks that Aguero has scored for City, the achievement only adheres him more to the supporters who have taken him to their hearts. Although in truth Aguero’s afternoon started poorly, in the 10th minute he astonishingly side-footed wide from just two yards out and with the goal beckoning in front of him. Minutes later though he wrapped his foot around the ball to send a superb curling 25-yard effort past Kepa Arrizabalaga. From that moment there was no going back.
City go for the kill with ruthless finishing
It was the first half of the first half where this game was won. Four goals in quick succession left Chelsea in the need for a time-out or better still full-time. Such an accomplished performance like this was a perfect ending to what was dubbed as a testing week for City. Three games, 11 goals and nine points having taken on and beaten Arsenal, Everton and now Chelsea.
The display was one of the most succinct that City have offered for their home supporters all season, and even that is saying something. From the first minute, the hosts were a level above, strutting and executing but always doing the basics right and never showing off – not intentionally at least.
When City have gone ahead early in games recently they have tended to ease off and drift through the following stages, but not against Chelsea. The quickfire goals of Sterling and Ilkay Gundogan either side of an Aguero double was too much for any side to deal with let alone a Chelsea side that were whacked 5-0 in their last league outing at Bournemouth.
Chelsea undone but questions are bigger
Maurizio Sarri didn’t even see City’s sixth goal, he had already turned to face his fellow coaches sat on the bench, his expression was of pure frustration. This was a traumatic experience for the Chelsea head coach and there are undoubtedly growing questions surrounding his team’s displays. Consequently, he will be under pressure as the owner has previously got rid of managers for far less.
What is the strangest aspect of Chelsea’s recent slump is that they appear like an entirely different side to the one that conservatively impressed in the opening months of the season. It’s as if the players have unlearned all of the stuff that Sarri taught them at the beginning, here they were void of confidence and quality.
And yet this was not a poor execution of Sarriball, far from it. Rather this was more or less the antithesis of Sarri’s philosophy of courageous attacking play combined with collective defensive responsibility. It is rather ignorant to say that this is a failing of Sarriball because it is not, Chelsea’s problems run deeper.
Their players need to step up and be counted; despite N’Golo Kante not playing in his best position and Eden Hazard’s head being turned by Real Madrid, Chelsea supporters are in need of a reaction. This – their fourth consecutive away defeat in all competitions – was certainly not that.
City are harbouring renewed belief
When leaving the Etihad some City fans were rubbing their hands at the thought of facing Chelsea again in a fortnight for a Wembley final. It is hard to anticipate the result being significantly different then, especially if David Silva starts rather than coming on from the bench.
City are leading a charge in all four competitions that they are participating in and it was apparent from the energised atmosphere that there is a belief that Guardiola – and his men – are capable of anything. City’s level of performance this past week is both a credit to themselves but also Liverpool who continue to push and challenge. If Liverpool can beat this team to the Premier League title, it will rank as the most exceptional performance of any of the league-winning side to have come from Anfield over the years.
At the moment, everything is clicking for City, and in truth, it’s all too easy. But Guardiola will not let the standards slip. He will urge Aguero to continue to push for new goalscoring records and Gabriel Jesus to chip in when given minutes. Also, he will want to see Bernardo Silva and Sterling creating and driving on either flank with Fernandinho and Kevin De Bruyne continuing to support from central areas.
Oleksandr Zinchenko, who was drafted in at left back here and fitted in so well, will be asked to toughen up to the more defensive responsibilities when needed. Whilst John Stones and his fellow central defenders must remain composed throughout when in and out of possession. Guardiola will always demand more irrespective of this superb humbling of Chelsea.