Manchester City handed Chelsea their heaviest Premier League defeat ever when kindred spirits Pep Guardiola and Maurizio Sarri met for the fifth time as managers on Sunday afternoon.
Guardiola’s men put six without reply past a lacklustre Chelsea, who not long ago inflicted the first Premier League defeat on City this season, a 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge, which then saw the defending champions go on to lose two of their next three league outings.
This slump, coupled with Liverpool’s irresistible form, gave Jurgen Klopp’s men the initiative in this season’s title race but City have since rebounded – including a win over the Reds – and will not relinquish their crown without a fight. The arrival of Chelsea, following wins over Arsenal and then Everton, gave Guardiola’s side an opportunity to put to right last December’s loss. And boy did they avenge that defeat.
Here are five things we learned from City’s latest rout.
1. City’s run of scoring first continues
There is no bigger challenge facing Premier League sides these days than facing City away from home. Guardiola’s men sit among the most dangerous teams in European football and when the English champions are on song, which is more often than not, they are capable of blitzing the very best. The instruction from the opposition dugout must be to keep it tight and if possible counter, easier said than done.
City in their surroundings are so frightening good it’s now become a psychological advantage. Such is their imperious stature it feels they’re already one goal up before kick-off. And, so far, it’s proven to come true. Chelsea were their 15th Premier League visitors this season and in each of those games City would break the deadlock.
They are the only side in England’s top division with a 100% record regarding this particular feat. Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea are second best on 69% (nine home games scored first out of 13 played). Going a little further, scoring first at home normally ends with Guardiola’s team clinching all three points, only Crystal Palace have prevented them from making it a clean sweep this season.
2. Big game Aguero
Sergio Aguero’s legend continues to grow with each passing season. He’s now City’s most prolific goalscorer in English league football (159 goals) as well as being their all-time leading marksman. If he’s not the best ‘number nine’ in European football today ‘Kun’ is at least among the names touted.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 10, 2019
Which makes the fact he’s only bagged three goals away from home this season all the more remarkable. That being said, his reliability when it comes to the big games is second to none. Since joining from Atlético Madrid in 2011 he’s gone on to play a total of 60 total matches against City’s top six rivals and in the process he’s bagged 43 goals. Back-to-back hat-tricks against Arsenal and Chelsea saw him equal Alan Shearer’s record for most Premier League trebles (11).
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3. Sterling breaks a duck
It’s hard to name a player who has improved the most tremendously under Guardiola than Raheem Sterling. Of course, his manager will say much of Sterling’s transformation has been down to the individual himself, but there’s no getting away from the role Guardiola has played. Sterling has always been a talent but the small tweaks Guardiola has made to his game, much of which been documented on film, seeing him go from a being dangerous proposition to near world class.
His ability in front of goal, long seen as a weakness, is no longer a concern. His effort to put Chelsea in front – 46th under Guardiola (before adding a 47th late on): only Aguero (86) has scored more – was a landmark moment. Never before had the England winger registered a league goal against the Blues. It means there’s now just seven clubs Sterling has faced in the Premier League he’s never scored past, though only three are in this season’s competition: Manchester United, Wolves and former club Liverpool.
4. More away day pain for Chelsea
Chelsea are the definition of Jekyll and Hyde this season. At times they’ve looked imperial, scoring at will, but days like this have been too commonplace. A thumping 4-0 loss away to Bournemouth before Sunday was the low point. Sarri, who is steadfast to his footballing philosophy, must now be concerned about his future. Napoli under him played some of the most joyous football in Europe but it is clear for all to see this Chelsea team lack the personal to pull off what he’s attempting to achieve.
"The worst thing I can say is it looks like he's turned Chelsea into Arsenal."@Carra23 dissects Chelsea's first half performance.
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) February 10, 2019
Not since December 1990 had Chelsea conceded four goals in consecutive away top flight matches – these are records no manager wants on his CV, and you have to go back to January 2015 for the last time Chelsea shipped in five or more goals in a league game. One wonders if there is any light at the end of the tunnel especially if Sarri remains glued to his way of playing. In the past he’s spoken about how difficult he’s finding to motivate his players which could ultimately lead to his downfall unless something changes more so with top four at stake.
5. Unwanted piece of history
Chelsea haven’t always been a Premier League force. But in the years before Roman Abramovich’s takeover they were hardly pushovers. Sure the Blues tasted some big defeats but nothing on this scale. Prior to visiting Bournemouth a few weeks ago Chelsea had only lost one Premier League game by a four-goal margin: against Liverpool in September 1996.
They’ve now managed that feat twice under Sarri which isn’t going to exactly relieve any pressure from the stands. This latest setback is one supporters and those with the club’s good intentions in mind want to forget in a hurry. But not those in Manchester who played One Step Beyond by Madness at the full-time whistle.
Not since a humbling 7-0 loss at Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest in April 1991 has Chelsea been thumped this hard. It’s a seminal moment in the club’s recent history which can easily lead to grave ramifications.