This past weekend’s English Premier League matches saw two Manchester clubs sew up their victories during the first 45 minutes of play. The circumstances in which they scored, however, were polar opposites.
Manchester United (1.8/2 xG) took on Fulham (1.2/1 xG) on Saturday at Craven Cottage. During the opening thirteen minutes, Fulham looked the more likely to score. They dominated possession and had four shots, though none on goal, and two big chances. During that spell, United failed to take a single shot. Not only that, as the diagrams show, Fulham (diagrams 1 and 2) enjoyed most of the possession in the final attacking third. They were ultimately undone by a wastefulness and inefficiency once there. The most appalling incident belonged to Aleksandar Mitrovic who missed a sitter inside the keeper’s box.
Manchester United converted their very first shot thanks a rapid counterattack and a powerful goal from an acute angle by the Frenchman Paul Pogba. After nine more minutes of Fulham possession dominance (though they didn’t manage a single shot during that span), Manchester United struck again on another counterattack. This time a fellow Frenchman, Anthony Martial, displayed another flash of brilliance, dribbling past defenders before slotting home a goal. Where Fulham dominated possession but were wasteful in the final third, Manchester United were lethal the few times they had the chance to attack.
Both goals game against the run of play.
The Manchester City (2.5/2.7 xG) v Chelsea (1.7/1.7) match presented the complete opposite scenario. From the start, City dominated possession and exploited poor play and shambolic defending by Chelsea. Maurizio Sarri’s insistence on playing a high line certainly did not help the Blues’ cause. As per Gabrielle Marcoti at espnfc.com
Less than a year ago, Antonio Conte famously said “I am not so stupid to play against Manchester City open and lose 3-0 or 4-0.” After the 6-0 beatdown that Pep Guardiola’s crew inflicted on Chelsea Sunday, you wonder if it makes Maurizio Sarri “stupid” — at least on the Conte-meter.
Within four minutes, Raheem Sterling exploited the chaos and scored. Nine minutes later Sergio Aguero, City’s unquestionable talisman, hit the back of the net. More goals followed. All came from City’s right side and at the expense of Cesar Azpilicueta and Antonio Rudiger as diagrams 8-10 clearly show. In particular, Sterling tortured Azpilicueta on Chelsea’s-0- right side and made a very good defender look clumsy and slow. We wouldn’t hold it against the defender if he had recurring nightmares of the former Liverpool midfielder.
Meanwhile, Chelsea struggled to move the ball past the midfield. Pep Guardiola had Manchester City’s central midfield perfectly set up. In particular Fernandinho and Kevin De Bruyne, broke up play and, in the case of the latter, initiated quick strike counterattacks. Diagrams 5-7 display the dearth of passes Chelsea managed in the final third.
WORDS: Marc Landas
IMAGE SOURCE: Creative Commons
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