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Sunday, March 7, 2021

Chelsea talking tactics: Oh, it is Pep Guardiola once again

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Chelsea hosts Manchester City in a potential title deciding match with top four implications. But Pep Guardiola is a bit overplayed at this point, right?

Pep Guardiola is perhaps the most well known unknown manager. Or the opposite, depending on how much he is admired from the viewer. Regardless, Guardiola is Guardiola and at this point his City team is an established product.

Guardiola’s formations are traditionally W’s and M’s and that usually equates to some sort of 4-3-3 or 3-5-2. They will look to overload, either wide or deep and central, and then switch play to a third man running into space. It is brutal, it is effective, and it is all a bit overdone at this point.

That “fatigue” has been hitting City this season, though to most of the world only Liverpool would truly know it. Jurgen Klopp’s side will win the title with a canter and it is only a matter of when. How did Guardiola’s two time juggernaut slip up this much and what implications might it have for Chelsea?

The first answer is injuries. Guardiola saw his backline dismantled through injury this season. At various other times, other positions joined that list such as Sergio Aguero at the moment. Guardiola is often hailed as an excellent coach and while that is true for some, it is not true for all players and that is showing this season.

Another simple reason why the team has slipped in the league is because they are not as focused on it after winning it twice. Klopp winning the Champions League last season surely irked Guardiola and the City hierarchy as the Champions League was kind of the point of hiring Guardiola in the first place. It is a trophy City want but lack and Guardiola has not won it in some time. The hunger is there so the Premier League was left on the back burner somewhat, either by choice or subconsciously.

Beyond that, teams simply know Guardiola’s City side by now. Generally quality can see them through the day and while they are fluid, it is still systematic on some level. If a team can see those systems and counter them, City go quite stale. This is generally the point where Guardiola goes to a new team and tweaks his tactics around them to buy himself a few years of trophies. It happened at Barcelona and Bayern Munich and now it is happening at City.

Of course, most if not all of that was true back when Chelsea lost to City in November. A lot of it was also true three months ago before the league stopped. In that time, Guardiola could have easily fixed all of these issues and, based on their two most recent wins, there is at least evidence towards that.

Next: Chelsea predicted XI vs. Man City: Lampard sticks with 4-3-3 for clash

Frank Lampard has been good at adapting for big teams and slowly but surely the results have followed. Guardiola is the known unknown which will provide its own challenges. But most of all, City will not want their result to gift Liverpool the title like Tottenham’s once did to Leicester (against Chelsea nonetheless). The motivation will be there, even if other variables are too, so the Blues must be prepared.

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