Tuchel slams Chelsea forwards as ruthless Man City kill off Blues’ title challenge
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel warned his team's under-fire attack that his team "is not a place to hide" after a sublime strike from Kevin de Bruyne underscored Man City's status as league champions-in-waiting on Saturday.
The game, billed as a titanic rematch between last season's Champions League finalists, only served to emphasize the gulf that Pep Guardiola's side has established over each of their Premier League rivals this season.
The league leaders only occasionally shifted out of third gear, with one such instance being Belgium lynchpin De Bruyne's sensational 70th-minute long-range effort which pinged past Kepa Arrizabalaga and ultimately secured City another three points on what appears to be an inevitable march towards their eighth top-flight crown and fourth title in five years.
0 - Chelsea failed to attempt a shot in the first half at the Etihad; the first time they've failed to do so in a Premier League game under Thomas Tuchel, and first time overall since May 2018 v Newcastle. Sheltered. pic.twitter.com/lBBLcUcmF0— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 15, 2022
Chelsea were rarely a threat. The front three of Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech and Lukaku were ineffective throghout, with the big Belgian spurning the Blues' best chance early in the second half.
Tuchel's side did largely contain much of Man City's goalscoring ambitions, with Kepa denying Jack Grealish in a tense first half, but it was City who were the more decisive of the two sides – and their ambition was rewarded when De Bruyne picked up an excellent pass from Joao Cancelo before outmuscling N'Golo Kante and bending a strike past Chelsea's Spanish goalkeeper from distance.
German boss Tuchel, who outwitted Guardiola in European club football's showpiece game last summer, has now lost two straight games to the Manchester side, but maintained afterwards that his side's defensive sturdiness might have been enough to earn a point – despite not even mustering a single shot in the first half.
21 - Kevin De Bruyne has scored 21 Premier League goals from outside the box; the most of any player since his first season with Manchester City (2015-16), and the joint-most of any Man City player in the competition’s history (level with Sergio Agüero). Artist. pic.twitter.com/0ntvnRApXG— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 15, 2022
In a game Chelsea really had to win the were too negative for too long, and poor with the final pass on the occasional foray up the field. They got what they deserved - nothing!— Craig Burley (@craigburley) January 15, 2022
"A result like this can happen and we deserved a draw. We defended very, very well. We have won games like this against City. We had eight or nine defensive transitions and zero touches in the box – that was a big problem today," said Tuchel, before singling out his forwards for criticism.
"The performance of the front players was a lack of timing, precision and composure. We lost too many balls too easily.
Romelu Lukaku talked rubbish in interviews like he was the best striker in world football. He told us he would apologise on the pitch. All he does is hold us back, doesn't even move. Another disgraceful performance. pic.twitter.com/MVA1ciofzp— CfcSheikh (@CfcSheikh) January 15, 2022
'Lukaku's right, Chelsea's shite' being sung by the home fans. Chelsea supporters respond by waving their inflatable European Cups— Simon Bajkowski (@spbajko) January 15, 2022
"Sometimes, Lukaku needs to [provide] the service. He had many ball losses in very promising circumstances. He had a huge chance, so he's included in this.
"The performance up front, especially in the first half – we need to do much better and we can do much better.
"Our offensive players need to show up more. We need consistency. Chelsea is not a place to hide," he added.
Guardiola, for his part, was adamant that a draw would not have been a fair reflection of the 90 minutes.
"[We] absolutely deserved it," he said, in contrast to Tuchel. "They way we played, everything we have done – we cannot forget who we played: they are Euro champions, and how incredible a side they are. They defended well, they waited for transition to punish us and we won from one transition."
The Premier League title race now has a familiar hue and will almost certainly be defined by the whether or not Liverpool can mount a realistic challenge to City's supremacy.
Second-placed Chelsea are winless in three league games as part of a run of one win in six Premier League matches that has left them 13 points behind City, who have won 12 Premier League matches in a row.
Liverpool are 14 points behind City and have two games in hand over the top two.
"If Liverpool win their games in hand it is eight points, so my job is to take out of the heads of the players what people will say. We are more than pleased but there is a lot of a job to do," added the Spaniard.
Manchester City move 1️⃣3️⃣ points clear in the Premier League table 🔝Is there any way back for Liverpool and Chelsea? pic.twitter.com/CeukyIshZe— DAZN Football (@DAZNFootball) January 15, 2022
The feeling online, meanwhile, was that Chelsea's galaxy of stars very much got what they deserved for their rudderless performance.
"In a game Chelsea really had to win, they were too negative for too long and poor with the final pass on the occasional foray up the field. They got what they deserved – nothing," said analyst and former Chelsea player Craig Burley.
"Romelu Lukaku talked rubbish in interviews like he was the best striker in world football," noted a fan of Chelsea's record signing, who rejoined the club for $130 million before the start of the 2021-22 season and was recently punished for saying he was unhappy with Tuchel's system.
"He told us he would apologize on the pitch. All he does is hold us back – doesn't even move. Another disgraceful performance,"
A third detailed a rather abrasive chant being directed at the Belgian international by Man City's home support: "Lukaku's right – Chelsea's sh*te."
Chelsea travel to Brighton on Tuesday and host Tottenham the following Sunday.