Thursday, April 18, 2024

Man City’s finishing lets them down vs. Chelsea as Guardiola’s men drop crucial points in Premier League race

In a critical match in the Premier League title race, Manchester City looked human at the Etihad drawing 1-1 to Chelsea who were pushed by a goal from former City man Raheem Sterling. Rodri netted a late equalizer but City weren’t able to find a winner even after a potential handball check late. Ever present Erling Haaland had a match to forget only putting two of his 10 shots on frame, missing two clear chances while Chelsea put in one of their best defensive performances of the season.

City may have won the xG battle 3.10 to Chelsea’s 1.57 but it took them 32 chances to get there as opposed to Chelsea’s nine showing that while City may have had numerous chances, the Blues were able to be more productive with theirs. The draw sees City of fall into third place in the Premier League, four points behind league leaders Liverpool and two points behind second-place Arsenal. The title race is far from over as City will travel to Anfield on March 10 and host Arsenal on March 31 but every point is critical as the race for the Premier League title is a tight one.

Watching Mohamed Salah return with a bang for Liverpool while Arsenal made easy work of Burnley despite not having Gabiel Jesus leading the line, this week it was City as the team that slipped up. While it would be premature to rule City out of the title race, dropping points against Chelsea for the second time this season won’t help their charge. 

It could’ve been worse if not for Rodri’s lovely strike. In the 82nd minute, he gave the hosts belief but Chelsea were able to bunker down and secure a point. Here’s the goal:

Haaland’s horror show

When the Norwegian has the ball in front of the net, it’s almost assumed that the chances will end in a goal but this season he has been unable to keep up with his prolific marks of City’s treble-winning season. While Haaland has 16 goals and five assists, he’s actually underperforming his expected goal tally of 18.32 this season. In comparison, last season in the Premier League, Haaland scored 36 goals from an xG of 28.88. This was on display against Chelsea as Haaland struggled to put good chances on frame despite registering six of the 10 best chances in the game via xG.

Finishing will ebb and flow like this as if Haaland scores a hat trick against Brentford, numbers will normalize but when his supporting cast in Julian Alvarez and Phil Foden are taken out of the match due to good defensive play by Chelsea, that’s when the expectation is on Haaland to make things happen and on Saturday, he couldn’t do that. 

Combine that with Chelsea utilizing their pace to score the opening goal by using City’s aggression to their disadvantage, and it was a fine day for the Blues overall. While there aren’t many teams in the world that can catch City out, in a season where the Premier League title will be decided by the thinnest of margins, City will need to function like a machine and forget about this one. 

After winning the treble, that can be hard to do because of how much competing on all fronts can take out of a team but that’s where Pep Guardiola can work his magic in pursuit of more glory. They may have taken a hit on Saturday, but it would surprise nobody if they still finish the season in the top spot. 

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