Defeat to Arsenal proved that Manuel Pellegrini's men really do need Yaya Toure back soon, says Alex Keble...
Manchester City's Yaya Toure-less statistics are becoming truly embarrassing, and after a third successive winless match in his absence, interest in their glaring creative deficiencies has intensified.
Put simply, City's playmakers have become overly reliant on Toure's storming runs and the space this tears open. Without him, David Silva & Co. don't have the drive to adapt.
From Jesus Navas to Sergio Aguero, the jinking runs and ghosting dribbles that characterise City's attacks can be attributed to Toure's ability to draw multiple opposition defenders towards him.
After back-to-back goalless games, it is no coincidence that Silva can no longer be found dancing gleefully into space in the final third.
Taken from fixtures either side of Toure's departure, these Stats Zone screens give some indication of his importance to movement on the pitch, and the amount of space Navas has to operate in. Note the number of backwards passes, and absence of final ball, in the second image.
Considering both like to hog possession (Chelsea average 56.4% possession, City 59.9%) via a high-pressing system (Chelsea average 21 tackles, City 20.3), the importance of City's immobility will be amplified.
Finding space will be extremely difficult in a game of such technical precision and speed in defence.
Chelsea will know from watching City's performances against Everton, Arsenal, and Middlesbrough that Silva remains the only (potential) creative threat. Yet nullifying Manuel Pellegrini's team has never been easier, and Nemanja Matic should have no problems man-marking the Spaniard out of the game.
Matic is superb at screening playmakers out of the game, as he did here against Erik Lamela.
Historically, Mourinho teams respond to a humiliating defeat with a long winning streak. Against a side completely out of ideas, Chelsea should win this one and put a serious dent in City's title challenge.
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