Football Features

“Liverpool are finally the champions” – Five things learned as Man City fall to the king-makers on the King’s Road

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 22:31, 25 June 2020

In a dramatic night of football, Chelsea beat Manchester City 2-1 at Stamford Bridge.

The win ensured that Liverpool won their first Premier League title since 1990. What did we learn?

1. Chelsea are kingmakers once again

It happened in 2014 when they shut out Liverpool and then killed them on the break thanks to Steven Gerrard’s slip, effectively handing the Premier League title to Manchester City. It happened again in 2016 when they bested Spurs in an ill-tempered match, directly handing the Premier League title to Leicester City.

And now it happened in 2020, as they hit Manchester City on the break twice, only this time they finally did Liverpool a favour and handed them their first Premier League title for 30 years. Liverpool are finally the champions thanks to the kingmakers on the King’s Road. The Reds and the Blues had become fierce rivals thanks to José Mourinho and Rafa Benitez, but every Liverpool fan will be loving Chelsea right now.

Next season, however, their rivalry will renew again. And with the potency Chelsea showed tonight and the additions they plan to make in the summer (including Timo Werner, snatched late from Liverpool’s clutches), as well as the continued excellence of Manchester City and an improving Manchester United, next season could be the most dynamic title race yet.

2. Guardiola needs defensive reinforcements

Manchester City dominated the match at Stamford Bridge but still came away losing the match and their Premier League crown. Chelsea had less of the ball but more of the chances. They will wonder how it happened, but the answer is painfully obvious and is the reason that they find themselves 23 points behind Liverpool in the first place: their defence is quite simply not good enough.

The departure of Vincent Kompany, the fall of John Stones and the injury to Aymeric Laporte has left City well short at the back. Fernandinho has filled in ably but ultimately he is a 35-year-old defensive midfielder and not a proper solution. Tonight exposed his flaws in that he can be burned by electric pace, which given how far forward City play, is a huge problem. Eric Garcia is one solution but City will need another; a centre-back with genuine pace to partner Laporte.

Mind you, Fernandinho’s red card and indeed Chelsea’s first goal came because of their other defensive weakness: left-back. Benjamin Mendy started the game and handed the Blues their opening goal with two unforced errors within the span of 20 seconds. He was such a liability on the break that Guardiola removed him but Oleksandr Zinchenko is another midfielder filling in and was nowhere to be found as Willian surged up the Chelsea right in the lead-up to the goalmouth scramble that caused the red card.

So City need to sign a left-back, a specialist left-back, who can attack and defend in equal measure. Until they address these two glaring weaknesses it doesn’t matter how well City play in attack, their defence will keep costing them shots at glory.

3. Chelsea’s Captain America gives them options

Christian Pulisic has had a strange Chelsea career so far and has almost been forgotten about amid all the attacking signings the Blues have been making lately. But he scored at the weekend and came into today’s game full of confidence and, despite Chelsea deploying a midfield without their best playmakers, Pulisic was a near-constant threat in attack.

Why? Because he has pace. Simple as that. Pulisic was supreme, hanging on the shoulder of the City defence and making deadly runs into the spaces behind them. The way he slowed down Benjamin Mendy before bursting past him on the way to scoring his first goal was unreal, and he almost doubled his tally in the second-half only for his shot to be cleared off the line by Kyle Walker.

Everyone knows Chelsea can play possession football, but their Captain America means they can play on the break too.

4. Whatever happened to Raheem Sterling?

Raheem Sterling was sensational for Manchester City last season and to start this one. Then something happened to his form around the turn of the year. His goal against Arsenal was his first strike of 2020, which is a baffling thing to consider when you realise how good he is.

Tonight against Chelsea, he never really looked like a threat in attack. There were some bright dribbles and neat movement, but on the whole he was far too easily contained by Chelsea. It’s baffling to watch and it must be concerning to Pep Guardiola, especially as Leroy Sané seems to be on his way out and City require such heavy investment in other areas.

5. The Blues are surely back in the big time now

All the talk was understandably about Liverpool winning the Premier League title for the first time in 30 years, but what shouldn’t be forgotten is that Chelsea needed the win to put some daylight between them and Manchester United in 5th.

This win gives them a five point buffer over The Red Devils who are looking like a side in form. It also puts them one point behind a flagging Leicester in third. All this to say: surely Chelsea’s place in next season’s Champions League is now secure? They can win with possession and on the break, they’ve got a deep squad with lots of options, and they’ve got top-class reinforcements on the way.

Chelsea 2020/21 could be one hell of a side.