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Talking Tactics

Tuchel's game plan can delay Man City title win

Adrian Clarke 7 May 2021
Guardiola and Tuchel

Adrian Clarke says Chelsea have a strategy that can deny Pep Guardiola's team on Saturday

Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points in Matchweek 35.

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Thomas Tuchel’s latest meeting with Pep Guardiola promises to be another intriguing tactical battle.  

A Manchester City victory would confirm them as champions, but with a top-four place far from guaranteed for Chelsea, they too will be highly motivated.  

Tuchel has made Chelsea a difficult side to breach since arriving in January. His team have kept 11 clean sheets from 15 Premier League matches.  

In five contests against top-eight teams in that period the Blues did not concede a single goal.

That figure jumps to six if you include their 1-0 success against Man City in the FA Cup semi-final.  

Tuchel's Chelsea v top-eight sides
Match Result Expected goals (xG)
Spurs (A) W 1-0 1.58 v 0.60
Man Utd (H) D 0-0 1.12 v 0.40
Liverpool (A) W 1-0 0.96 v 0.28
Everton (H) W 2-0 3.41 v 0.34
West Ham (A) W 1-0 2.54 v 0.40

In possession, Chelsea have kept the ball well and patiently waited for the right moments to spring attacks.  

Off the ball, Tuchel has also worked hard on instilling excellent positional discipline. Their incredibly solid shape has barely given opponents a sight of their goal.

Chelsea will seek to replicate this formula at the Etihad Stadium.  

Clinical counters 

Tuchel targeted City on the counter-attack in the FA Cup semi-final, just as he did in a 1-0 win at Liverpool in March.  

Both winning goals stemmed from rapid breakaways.  

Chelsea's FA Cup win over City

While Guardiola's side are less vulnerable to being caught with a high line this season, they can on occasion be troubled by longer passes played down the side of their central defenders.  

Therefore Timo Werner will be a big threat for Chelsea this weekend.  

The Germany international loves to make runs off the shoulder of the last man and has the pace to stretch City.

Mason Mount and Kai Havertz are two other intelligent young players who are willing to make clever runs from deep.  

Mount raced through to score from a long N'Golo Kante pass at Anfield, while Havertz netted twice against Fulham last time out with well-timed bursts in behind.

Havertz's double v Fulham

Chelsea will not mind having the minority share of possession in this encounter.  

Tuchel's strategy is likely to focus on hurting City on the break with precision.  

Comparison since Tuchel took charge
  Man City Chelsea
Matches played 15 15
Goals 35 20
Expected goals (xG) 28.67 24.18
Shot conversion rate (inc. blocks) 15.22 9.01
Total shots 230 222
Shots on target 85 88

No other teams have gathered as many PL points as Man City (39) and Chelsea (32) since Tuchel arrived at Stamford Bridge.  

Had the Blues been more clinical in front of goal they would not have been seven points shy of the leaders across this 15-match period.  

Despite scoring almost half the number of goals, Chelsea have actually produced more shots on target than City since their head coach was appointed.  

Given how easily they were contained in the FA Cup semi-final, it will be fascinating to see if Guardiola adjusts the way his players approach this fixture.

What we do know is that these are two extremely well-coached teams who prove you do not always need a traditional striker to achieve successful results.  

With the two sides set to contest the third all-English UEFA Champions League final later this month, a win for either club could set the tone for that encounter. 

Also in this series

Part 1: Bale and Dele can keep Leeds on the back foot
Part 3: Benrahma can cement West Ham starting spot
Part 4: Wood can power Burnley to victory at Fulham

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