Manchester City came into last night’s game against Watford knowing they needed to keep winning. They are still only two points ahead of Liverpool and it’s crucial for them to keep that lead heading into the Christmas period. So their performance against Watford, while a little sketchy at the end, was the perfect result headed into Saturday against Chelsea.
Manchester City Take Care of Business Before Saturday’s Chelsea Showdown
This game was all set up to be one of those old sports cliches; the trap game. City have been flying in the league and have a stiff test on Saturday away at Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea. With that in mind, games like Tuesday’s against Watford are extra important and, after 80 minutes against Watford, you could see them looking to that game against the Blues.
They were already 2-0 up and seemed to take their foot off the gas. City had scored two lovely goals, one from Leroy Sane’s chest, the other off of Riyad Mahrez’s famous left foot. In the 73rd minute they had taken off David Silva and in the 83rd minute, Vincent Kompany came off the field. If there was ever a sign of a team looking to the next game it would be those changes.
But once those changes are made, it still takes a massive mistake to get a goal off of City and this time it was Fabian Delph’s turn. His giveaway of possession left Gerard Deulofeu in behind running at the byline. His cross took multiple deflections before finding Abdoulaye Doucoure at the back post. He himself had two shots blocked before finally scoring one with his third bite at the apple.
That goal sent Vicarage Road into chaos. The last ten minutes of the game were a good, old-fashioned long-ball fest. Watford constantly trying to get forward as quickly as possible and Manchester City were blasting the ball forward every time they got it back. Pep even brought on Aymeric Laporte, replacing a striker, but still, City were able to hold out for the win.
Breaking It All Down
If not for the outstanding play of Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster, that crazy last ten minutes would have never happened. He made three saves in one-on-one situations; against Sane and Mahrez in the first-half and against Gabriel Jesus in the second-half. It must be said Jesus did not have a good game and his one Premier League goal all season is a concern.
The worry for City is that they missed so many chances in this game. Watford clearly tried to take away David Silva and Bernardo Silva. They flooded the midfield to stop those two from getting the opportunities on the ball they needed and it worked really well. It’s just that when those two aren’t in the game as much, someone like Riyad Mahrez can still kill you.
He was outstanding against the Hornets. Getting on the ball and going at Watford left-back Jose Holebas as much as he could. His close control and ability to feign his body weight around is a nightmare for defenders like Holebas. A goal and an assist for Mahrez gives him seven and six in all competitions this season, proving to be every bit worth the money they spent.
What This Means for Saturday
The clear thing coming out of this game is that they will have to be better against Chelsea. Due to Chelsea’s style, City will have much less of the ball than they are used to; therefore they will need to be more clinical. If they are as clinical as they were against Watford, Chelsea will have a real chance at a win.
City are going to need strong play in the margins and may need to try something they don’t normally use. City have a weapon in Ederson that you see them use all the time when playing the ball out from the back but his strongest weapon is not his passing over short distances, as we have all seen.