Here are my three thoughts on Manchester City beating Chelsea 1-0 on Saturday:
• Man City is going to win the title, and it was great to see vintage Kevin De Bruyne make the difference. De Bruyne’s remarkable run and strike from distance (with the ball almost directly under him at impact) gave City the deserved victory, and it was the biggest positive moment in a season of challenges for the Belgian. Due partly to injuries and partly to the long-term effects of Covid, which De Bruyne has talked about, he has only one league assist this season (after having 12 and 20 each of the last two seasons) and now six goals. But he looked like the Kevin De Bruyne we know and love again on Saturday, evading a tackle from the otherwise-excellent N’Golo Kanté, collecting himself and unleashing a deceptively difficult bender of a shot past Kepa Arrizabalaga for the game-winner. Chelsea won’t catch City now that there’s a 13-point gap, and frankly it’s hard to imagine Liverpool (14 points back, but with two games in hand) doing so either.
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• Thomas Tuchel got it wrong for the second time this season in the league against City. The Chelsea coach was overly conservative in his approach to the first league game against City last September, and it resulted in a 1-0 home loss that portended what was to come this season. In that game as in this one, it’s clear that Chelsea still hasn’t figured out how to use Romelu Lukaku most effectively. The previous game involved a 3-5-2, three defensive central midfielders, desperately trying to hit City on the counter and relying on Timo Werner to be the link on the break. This game was different, with Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech being used from the start out wide, but they couldn’t effectively get the ball to Lukaku in dangerous positions. Most of all, it seems absolutely crazy that Tuchel wouldn’t bring Mason Mount into the game until the 80th minute. I was surprised Mount didn’t start in such a consequential game, and I grew increasingly dumbfounded the longer Tuchel waited to bring him on. I just don’t get it.
• From a USMNT perspective, at least more players are getting significant playing time for their clubs lately. Pulisic wasn’t bad, necessarily, he just didn’t have a major impact the way he did in Chelsea’s 2-2 tie against Liverpool. But the fact is that Tuchel trusted Pulisic enough to start him in a big game again—and even in a wide position, no less, though he’s even better-suited to the wide left position where he can cut in on his right foot. Pulisic hasn’t started a game for the USMNT since the win at Honduras on September 8, but he figures to be able to start in the upcoming three qualifiers and have the stamina to do it. Looking around at other likely USMNT starters, Tyler Adams started for Leipzig on Saturday and looks to have earned the trust of new coach Domenico Tedesco. Weston McKennie is in the form of his club career right now for Juventus. And Chris Richards started again Saturday for Hoffenheim, making a case for him to get the nod in the qualifiers. The lack of club playing time for Sergiño Dest at Barcelona and Yunus Musah at Valencia remains a concern, but this is area is less of a worry overall for the USMNT right now than it was a couple weeks ago.
What are your thoughts on the game, the Premier League race and the USMNT? You can share them in the comments below.
Couldn’t see the game, just highlights. I was on Grandpa duty this morning.
It looked like Kepa got wrong-footed on the goal. Mendy might’ve had it.
Isn’t Ziyech left-footed? Why not play Pulisic on the left and Ziyech on the right, where they can EACH cut inside on their stronger foot? Wouldn’t that open up space for wingbacks on overlaps?
Wish Dest & Musah were getting more time. But as a consequence they should be more than ready to show what they can do in the qualifiers, and will probably enjoy the fresh air. What’s the latest on Reyna?
Lukaku thrives when he has a strike partner. Tuchel has a single striker system. What happens first? Does Lukaku leave, does Tuchel give up his system, or does Roman fire Tuchel? There is *so much* attacking talent on this team, *very expensive* attacking talent at that, and it goes to waste.
Chelsea is broken in the EPL. They may fix themselves in the CL but it is very evident that the gaffer and Lukaku can't co-exist. I'm not sure Lukaku can dominate the EPL? City's depth is their strength.