Five things we learned as Chelsea beat Manchester City to hand Liverpool the Premier League title

Huge three points for Chelsea, even bigger night for a team who weren’t even on the pitch

Karl Matchett
Thursday 25 June 2020 23:38
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Liverpool players celebrate Premier League win

Manchester City suffered defeat at Chelsea, with Liverpool winning the Premier League title as a result.

Pep Guardiola’s team dominated matters in terms of possession and early chances, but it was Chelsea who took the lead thanks to Christian Pulisic’s pace, opportunism and composure.

After the break City came out with renewed intent and Kevin De Bruyne netted a brilliant free-kick, with Raheem Sterling striking the post minutes later. It wasn’t all one-way traffic, though, as Chelsea retained a threat on the counter, Kyle Walker clearing off the line from another Pulisic effort.

The game was settled, though, when Fernandinho handled on the line and received a red card, with Willian netting the subsequent penalty after a VAR call to seal a 2-1 win.

Here are five things we learned as Chelsea took a big step toward Champions League qualification.

No guarantees for Jesus

Even with Sergio Aguero injured and likely out for the rest of the league season, Gabriel Jesus has found he doesn’t have a guaranteed starting role.

The Brazilian has been much more a squad member than starter this season, but even deprived of their top scorer, the rotation of positions and spaces on the pitch from Guardiola’s side mean they don’t need a pure No. 9.

Bernardo Silva was the player who essentially took up the role of centre-forward from kick-off, but as well as the Portuguese midfielder it was Raheem Sterling and De Bruyne who were happy to cycle in and out of the main attacking area.

Jesus of course has a key role to play, but City are not limited to such normalities of needing to start a striker.

City can’t counter the counter

Christian Pulisic of Chelsea scores

Often in the biggest of games – those they haven’t come out on top of – it seems that Manchester City’s biggest issue has been defending against teams who are fast and strong on the counter-attack.

Certainly against Liverpool, their direct title rivals, City have struggled against that aggression and speed in transitions that Jurgen Klopp’s side manage so well – and that was their downfall for the opening goal, too.

Not that this was a cohesive unit which swamped City. This was just Pulisic, a one-man band who had touch, timing and pace and the drive to take on all-comers.

The issue was that City had neither the recovery pace nor the individual defensive ability to stop him, just as they haven’t been able to stop others who have that trait. Of course, on this occasion, much of the blame will sit at the feet of Benjamin Mendy.

But even harking back to Pep Guardiola’s time at Bayern Munich and the way they exited the Champions League to the likes of Real Madrid, it seems it’s still an inherent shortcoming of his sides to defend well against that type of powerful transition play.

Champions League chase

Going into the game, Chelsea boss Frank Lampard made it clear he didn’t care about the title fight – this was a game for his team to try and keep their Champions League push rolling along.

His team struck a blend of balance and attacking intent to reflect that, even if he would have expected to have less possession – he wanted players on the pitch who could hurt City, too.

And that’s what Lampard got, in and around the spells when City pinned his team back: a willingness to seek out chances and goals for themselves and, ultimately, precious points.

The win leaves Chelsea just one point behind Leicester in third, suddenly, and more importantly with a five-point buffer down to Man United in fifth again.

Silverware on the horizon?

Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne celebrates

This was not Manchester City’s main game of the week. Yes, Guardiola may have played mind games to an extent regarding his lineup, and yes, professional pride would have played a part.

But the league title was gone before this 90 minutes took place.

City have FA Cup and Champions League trophies to aim for, but perhaps after two routine, untroubled wins in the league, this match will remind City what competitiveness can do, how his team need to step up further when the match has meaning for the other team, too.

There’s no question Guardiola’s team are good enough to win the trophies which lie ahead, but they still need to be right on their game to see off the challengers in both competitions.

Title won without a ball kicked

And a word for the Premier League title itself—deservedly Liverpool’s, even if won in the strangest of situations: no fans when they were on the pitch and not on the pitch when they won it.

Jurgen Klopp’s side have been the stand-out team this year in terms of defensive resilience and consistency in winning games.

And it shows both these sides what will be required next term, when both will aim to be challengers.

City have lost eight now this season – far too many to truly go close. Liverpool have lost one.

And Chelsea need look to Liverpool’s recruitment, given they have started their own in such spectacular fashion this summer, as to how much difference it can make in team-building.

2020/21 in the Premier League is already looking like an exciting place to be.

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