Manchester City 0 Chelsea 1: Deficiencies of Martin Demichelis ruthlessly exposed by Chelsea attack

For Demichelis -  pony-tailed and gloved - the job was to stop Chelsea’s rapier thrusts

The Etihad stadium

Martin Demichelis has not paraded any inhibitions about having what it takes to be a part of the squad with more lustre than all others in the Premier League. His confidence comes from his place in the La Liga team of the year last season, a position he owed to winning more tackles for Malaga than every player but one in Spain. His wife’s near legendary observation after they had arrived in Britain that “women with footballers must always hire ugly” reinforces the view that they know what they’re about in that household.

But the anxiety clung to the Etihad like a cold fog when the team sheet revealed on Monday night that the 33-year-old in whom Manuel Pellegrini shares the same unerring faith was the man selected to help hold central midfield. Fernandinho, the player we had been invited to speak to before the game, has been one of the reasons why 4-4-2 has not been old fashioned at Manchester City; an individual with the power and muscularity to get up and down the field. Pellegrini lost his linchpin but kept his system, all the same.

The manager’s belief that there was a job for Demichelis there had its foundations in the fact that he had done it for him before this season, though the massed ranks of Watford and the Tottenham team that crumbled in the face of City’s force last month was hardly a proving ground for a match like this.

Manchester City 0 Chelsea 1 match report: Off-colour City sent reeling by masterful Jose Mourinho  

The central area was always going to be the one in which this game was won and lost; that Jose Mourinho knew as much was evident from the cluster of players billeted to swarm around Yaya Touré each time he gathered possession in the middle. For Demichelis – gloved, pony-tailed  – the task was to halt the rapier thrusts with which Chelsea would seek to burst out of their own ranks.

 

It did not immediately look beyond him, in the way that the factors which dictate a match like this are not always black and white. He advanced to time a solid block on Ramires before the half hour, as the Brazilian threatened to race away from Chelsea’s own rearguard. “My first role is at centre-back,” he said before this game. “But I played for six years at Bayern Munich as a holding midfielder so I feel comfortable in both positions.”

Yet City required something more than “comfortable”. As David Luiz and Nemanja Matic locked off the game, seizing possession and squeezing the space each time the ball broke in their direction, the Argentine struggled to command so much.

He was not helped by his own man, Alvaro Negredo, just before the half hour, whose loose ball left him  reaching desperately to collect ahead of Ramires, succeeding only in blocking it to Matic, whose easy 20-yard pass sent Willian running free in a four-on-one predicament for City, which required Joe Hart’s smart save to prevent them falling behind.

Manchester City 0 Chelsea 1: Team Chelsea outwit City with Jose Mourinho exacting perfect game plan  

The winning goal – more significant than ever on occasions like this – came shortly afterwards, altering the dynamics of the match immensely and letting Chelsea compress the space even more. It was not only Demichelis’ struggle to keep up with the pace of the match – in the next 20 minutes either side of the break – though there was a time in that period when any challenge he attempted was askew. (It did not ease City’s anxiety that Eden Hazard looked as free as a bird at that time, as confidence coursed through him.)

No, it was the absence of the extra attacking presence that Fernandino brings which also told. The Brazilian spoke before the game of balancing duties of attack and defence, as if his advance upfield was a guilty secret. Demichelis loitered deep, in front of his own defence, placing a challenge on Willian in one of Chelsea’s sortees but nothing else; nothing exceptional.

Manchester City 0 Chelsea 1 - five things we learnt including Eden Hazard is now 'top player' and Martin Demichelis could cost Manuel Pellegrini dear  

That one man’s absence made such a difference in the central areas told most as the game entered its last five minutes, when a ball cleared towards Oscar left Matija Nastasic clinging onto the shirt of the Chelsea substitute as he threatened to race away and earned him the yellow card which should have been a red.

City were spared, of course, but as they poured men forward again, Demichelis was the solitary one left behind. A tactical masterpiece from Mourinho. But a night, also, when City discovered that one missing man can do for a team.

Read more...
Off-colour Man City sent reeling by Mourinho
Manchester City 0 Chelsea 1 - player ratings from the Etihad
Chelsea masseur's 'Scottish' team-talk inspired victory
Five things we learnt at the Etihad Stadium
Mourinho: Chelsea are a little horse that 'needs milk and to learn how to jump'
Team Chelsea outwit City with Mourinho's perfect game plan
Deficiencies of Demichelis ruthlessly exposed by Chelsea
Pellegrini v Mourinho head-to-head analysis
Exclusive: City facing new threat of Champions League expulsion
Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high