Pep Guardiola triumphs in battle of tortured geniuses as he finally overtakes Thomas Tuchel
The life of a maestro is a torturous existence, judging by the bustling state of Pep Guardiola and Thomas Tuchel at Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon.
They were perhaps two of the best minds in football, exchanging ideas at their summit meetings in Germany at the time. Yet they are also among the most troubled.
Tuchel, with all the sartorial elegance of an ultra-marathon runner, decked out in a standard company logo baseball cap, rarely seems happy, spending most games throwing his hands in the air, turning on his bench to utter a volley of Germanic frustrations.
Pep Guardiola claimed the latest victory in his tactical fight with Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel
Manchester City triumphed at Stamford Bridge in another tight tactical show
Guardiola, middle-aged tech CEO in the team sponsor’s Madchester lineup (don’t ask), isn’t much better, a ball of exasperation that growls and frowns. You can give a coach the best players in the world, but it always seems like an excruciating experience for those who stay in charge.
In reality, the nervous energy expended by these two was just an expression of the intensity of these games.
They are perhaps the two best teams in the world. Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Liverpool and Paris St Germain would undoubtedly demonstrate. But by the end of last season and the start of it, no one had matched those two for form. Thus, the margin of error is negligible.
And Tuchel did not know it. Although he is arguably in better shape, despite being at home and being the ascending coach, he approached the game like a man who has secured his winning streak at Monte Carlo. and wasn’t about to lose his mind. now.
Tuchel spent the game restless and frustrated as he urged his Chelsea side to step onto the pitch
Pep Guardiola had lost three games in a row against Tuchel and finally got the better of his rival
His personal one-on-one with Guardiola since arriving in England was 3-0 in his favor and it looked like he was content with that, happy to hold onto his lead rather than twist and go bankrupt.
It’s the start of the season, Chelsea already had three points on City at the start and Tuchel was not in the mood to risk that. Mason Mount has been injured, but even so, a midfielder of Jorginho, N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic is as solid as he gets in world football.
Add a three-way rear and full-backs that usually play in the back. Too bad the team asked to break this down. Even the combined talents of Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Jack Grealish and Phil Foden didn’t feel much joy at the start.
City won nine corners in that first half, so furious their pressing was and their possession was so dominant.
Aymeric Laporte’s header, cleared by Jorginho in the 34th minute, briefly raised the alarm but otherwise everything failed. Half were relentless rather than fascinating.
Chelsea barely built an attack, Romelu Lukaku ran aground, touching the ball several times and struggling with his touch when it happened to him. Timo Werner was chosen for his pace on the clock. Having lost his place at the center-forward, Werner is almost exclusively reserved for those hit-and-run games these days.
The visitors put on the pressure and won nine corners as Chelsea’s back line scrambled
However, judging from Tuchel’s story, his plan was going awry. He constantly encouraged his team to take the field. There was really no connection between the deep midfielders and two lone strikers. However, everything seemed predictable, given the team he had chosen.
Guardiola is the man who won the league title last season more or less without a recognized center-forward. This season, having failed to land Harry Kane, he seems determined to prove his point again and play Gabriel Jesus on the sidelines.
Phil Foden was the most central offensive player. He worked tirelessly and there was so little space, so little change for Rudiger and then Thiago Silva when he arrived.
Thus, the model of the game was established. City made the whole race, Chelsea just chased them away. It was like we could play all afternoon and finish 0-0.
Chelsea manager makes a constantly irritated figure but defends his players after the game
And yet, came the tenth turn. The city has tried something different. They chose not to cross but to play short, De Bruyne to Silva. Even then, there was little threat, when Joao Cancelo shot into a forest of players and Gabriel Jesus recovered the rebound.
Immediately Rudiger, Jorginho and Thiago Silva surrounded him, but somehow the Brazilian referred to a shot that went through that trip, with a deflection and escaped Edouard Mendy. It was an unlikely but welcome breakthrough.
This prompted the introduction of Kai Havertz, who scored the winning goal for Porto in that Champions League clash. Now at least it looked like two teams were trying to win the game.
Except Chelsea weren’t sharp enough on the counterattacks and City up front were ready to back down. And now they had a little more room to play.
City are back with the Blues and their setup for a thrilling league title run this season
Jack Grealish came to life, forcing a nice save from Mendy while Aymeric Laporte should have connected better with Kevin De Brune’s signature teasing crossover.
The highlight is that, for all the changes Tuchel made, it was City who benefited and seemed the most consistent. There is a school of thought that Tuchel is a defensive coach.
His training brought water to this particular mill, while his constant forward thrust of his wing brought that counterpoint back. But the reality is that while safety first may be a sensible mantra for any elite coach, it doesn’t suit the character of this Chelsea side.
They didn’t look at each other here. As such, they have conceded vital ground for City in what is sure to be a fascinating title race.
The two maestros kissed at the end. Neither of them smiled. But it felt like all the suffering was worth it.