City 0 v 3 Chelsea
Report by Stuart Dawkins
The King Power stadium was oddly subdued before, during and after this comfortable victory for the current league leaders. The usual pre-match music and preparation had, understandably, been altered to allow for good wishes to be sent to Alan Birchenall – convalescing in hospital following his recent heart attack – and for a minute’s applause in memory of former England manager, Graham Taylor. 5.30pm kick offs, too, are not popular, and there was no real evidence of ‘fortress King Power’ in the stands or on the pitch. Even the pre-match presentation of an award to Andy King – for 350 City appearances – did not really lift the mood.
Diego Costa’s falling out with his club meant that he had not travelled with the visitors – who lined up with no obvious centre forward. Hazard, Willian and Pedro were each the focus of Chelsea attacks, as they played a very fluid formation throughout.
Even more surprising was City’s line-up: a back three of Morgan, Huth and Fuchs – with Chilwell and Albrighton as wing-backs. Mendy, Ndidi (making his home debut) and Drinkwater formed the midfield, with Musa and Vardy up front.
City’s best moment of the entire match came in the first minute, when Vardy and Musa linked at speed, resulting in a shot which Courtois comfortably saved. Five minutes later, Chelsea had taken the lead, patient passing in front of the Leicester defence resulted in a deflected shot which was not cleared and wing-back Alonso took a straightforward opportunity from 10 yards. It all looked very easy for the team that had won 13 of its last 14 matches.
In the 10th minute, fans of both teams shone the lights on their phones in a gesture of support for The Birch – a worthy gesture for a player who had graced both clubs, and to whom we send our very best wishes for a good recovery. The extra light also made it far easier to distinguish the two strips: in an age where all clubs have two different change strips, it made little sense that Chelsea played in an all-black kit which was not sufficiently distinct at distance from City’s all-blue on a dreary evening.
City contained Chelsea quite well for the rest of the first half, pressing with often four or five players crowding into the Chelsea half, causing the visitors to lose their passing rhythm. Had the score-line been nil-nil, I would have expected Chelsea to be getting frustrated, but they are a well organised team and whilst the pressing meant that they did not create much, neither did Leicester.
The second half began in a similar way to the first: with Chelsea scoring early. Fuchs commited a foul by the by-line, being booked for pulling a player back; the resulting cross was not properly cleared and Alonso scored his second from the edge of the box via a deflection that gave Schmeichel no chance.
That finished the game as a contest. Chelsea were never going to give up a two-goal lead – and whilst Leicester’s pressing had looked capable of stopping Chelsea’s free-flowing play, it could not create any scoring opportunities for the home team.
Perhaps in recognition of this, Ranieri made significant personnel changes, bringing on Okazaki … for Huth! The gesturing amongst the players showed that they were unclear what formation they were supposed to be playing. It eventually settled into a back three with Ndidi dropping back to support Morgan and Fuchs – but not before Chelsea had narrowly missed a further couple of decent chances as City looked genuinely confused by the changes.
Eventually, the inevitable happened and Chelsea scored again: a simple pass in the space between Fuchs and Chilwell released Willian into the box, Schmeichel charged out to block and was only able to deflect the ball up into the air for Pedro to head into an empty goal.
Immediately, Musa was replaced by Gray – a change that was pending when the goal was scored – and shortly after, Simpson replaced Albrighton, with the same back-three formation remaining in place.
The final 15 minutes were comfortable for Chelsea, although Gray’s positive play lead to City looking a bit more threatening. City’s lack of attacking threat was worrying, with Fuchs’ over-the-shoulder volley in the 87th marking only City’s second shot on target in the entire match.
Conte made changes for Chelsea – Hazard, Willian and Pedro being replaced by Fabregas, Batshuayi and Loftus-Cheek – but the league leaders were by now playing as if it was a training match, and 3-0 was a fair result.
City’s formation-changes did not work well; in particular they created almost no chances and Vardy was barely involved in the game at all. City’s passing was often poor, notably Drinkwater who last season was so reliable at creating chances.
There were a few positives. Ndidi looks a good player, and for Ranieri to trust him to alter his role mid-game suggests the manager rates him highly, too. Gray looked lively and direct when he came on, and the sight of him, Chilwell and Loftus-Cheek chatting together at the full time whistle may well have been a preview of three mainstays of the England team in a few years’ time.
Chelsea are worthy league-leaders, calmly holding on to their lead and then adding to it, with their backs – and David Luiz in particular – nullifying anything City had to offer in attack.
City could have played well and still lost to this Chelsea side; they will need to be more organised and reliable against less good teams if they are going to steer clear of a relegation battle, and to work out a way to contain teams whilst at the same time presenting some form of goal threat themselves.
Leicester: Schmeichel, Morgan, Huth, Fuchs, Albrighton, Drinkwater, Ndidi, Mendy, Chilwell, Vardy, Musa. Subs: King, Kapustka, Simpson, Okazaki, Zieler, Gray, Wasilewski
Chelsea : Courtois, Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill, Moses, Kanté, Matic, Alonso, Willian, Hazard, Pedro. Subs: Begovic, Ivanovic, Fàbregas, Zouma, Loftus-Cheek, Batshuayi, Chalobah
The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation