Playing Manchester City at the Etihad is no laughing matter. They have dominated every single opponent at home this season, with their 100% record before they faced Chelsea, being the proof of this. But if anyone was going to put an end to it then most people would agree that it would be Chelsea, especially with their Portuguese tactical genius, Jose Mourinho. Once again, Mourinho outwitted his opponent, this time with the simple switch of players.
Yes, this season Mourinho has modelled his side around Oscar, but decided to replace the playmaker by pushing his Brazilian colleague Ramires into the attacking midfield spot and starting Matic in a holding role. Most people would have thought he was crazy not starting one of Chelsea’s best attackers but there was a reason for this and it evidently worked. Ramires, slim in stature, is an absolute workhorse and a more physical player than Oscar. Although he is technically less gifted than Oscar, he is prepared to run for days. With Ramires playing in this role, Man City were pressed high up the field and not given much time or space when in possession of the ball.
Ramires only won 3 (21%) of his 14 ground duels, and 3 (38%) of his 8 aerial duels. He completed both of his attempted clearances, with one of them being a headed clearance and also won 2 free kicks although he made 3 fouls. He had 40 touches of the ball but was dispossessed twice and overran the ball once. He also lost the ball 15 times but recovered the ball twice, both in the defensive third.
The Brazilian completed 14 (78%) out of his 18 passes. Out of his completed passes, only 28% (4) of them were forward, which was the worst percentage produced by any player on the field. He made 3 (17%) passes backwards and 1 (11%) to the right. He seemed to favour playing the ball to the likes of Hazard, as 44% (6) of his passes were to the left.
Adjusting to his new role, Ramires was heavily involved in direct contact with the ball in the attacking half, notching up 11 (84%) passes throughout the match. Within the final third, he completed 6 out of 9 passes. In the defensive half, he only made 3 passes. He attempted one through ball and two crosses, with neither of them making it to a teammate.
He attempted to score on 3 occasions, all with his right foot. All shots were on target but one was blocked. No one had a better shooting accuracy than him. 2 of his shots came from counter attacks and he had a clear cut chance to put his name on the score sheet but failed to do so. Ramires completed one dribble out of 5 and failed to create any chances. He was flagged for offside once but won 2 corners for Chelsea and gave away 1.
The switch of Ramires into the attacking midfield role proved to be the key to the Chelsea’s win. He may not have created many chances or scored any goals, but he was able to defend from the front. With quality defensive players behind him, the whole Chelsea team well and truly deserved the result produced. Chelsea will be hoping they can maintain these performances and by the end of this month we may even see knew leaders at the top of the table, who knows.