1. The mutual respect between Maurizio Sarri and Pep Guardiola goes back years due to their different approaches in controlling matches through possession and baiting opposition defenders to create space. Their Chelsea and Manchester City sides met just two months ago in December, with Chelsea winning 2-0 through an N’Golo Kante opener. After the win, Sarri said “it’s difficult for us to find motivation, but when we have it, we are a very strong team.”
  2. Sarri’s words foreshadowed Chelsea’s loss in form, culminating into a 2-0 loss to Arsenal and a 4-0 loss to Bournemouth in which the manager called out his side’s lack of mentality.
  3. City also hit their own rough patch in which they lost to Crystal Palace and Leicester at the end of December, eventually going as far down as 7 points from Liverpool at the top before coming back to within three point and able to retake the lead with a win versus Chelsea.
  4. In the buildup to the match, Sarri stated that City have the most technical midfield in the world and highlighted Fernandinho’s underrated contributions. He added that the match would be decided by that section of the field. Guardiola responded by complimenting Gonzalo Higuain’s ability to create goals out of nothing. Both observations seem reasonable: City, playing at home, should dominate possession as Chelsea will have to find a goal out of nothing.
  5. Eden Hazard also praised his ability to work with Higuain, although those comments may have been born out of his excitement of no longer having to play up front.
  6. The only surprise in each side’s lineup is the inclusion of Alex Zinchenko at the left back position. That role has been spotlighted recently, not only through Benjamin Mendy’s social media postings, but with Aymeric Laporte deputizing in that role during their match against Liverpool. Guardiola praised Zinchenko’s mentality after making a mistake against Southampton that lead to an opposition goal, saying that the Ukrainian never hid from the match and kept wanting the ball.
  7. Speaking of mentality, Chelsea are dictating play early with possession and their high press. Hazard and Higuain each look lively in their movement.
  8. Jorginho gets a tactical foul on Kevin de Bruyne. Chelsea fall asleep on the subsequent free kick as de Bruyne finds Bernardo Silva with a defense-splitting ball. Raheem Sterling pounces on the subsequent cross and scores. Replay shows that Marcos Alonso turned his back on de Bruyne before the Belgium took the free kick, another example of a mental breakdown from Sarri’s side. Once Sarri put that idea out in public, every little mistake seems like a mental lapse.
  9. The initial foul from Jorginho for de Bruyne’s free kick will invite more scrutiny due to a lack of mobility and defensive sense from the Italian midfielder - especially with Kante’s defensive ability pushed further up field.
  10. City are easily playing through Chelsea’s press as Zinchenko is finding space on the left wing once their initial line of pressure is broken.
  11. Sergio Aguero misses an open net. Again, the sequence started with de Bruyne and Silva dancing inside the box, with Silva eventually finding Aguero in front of goal, wide open.
  12. City are now dominating possession and tempo. This is fully their match. How do Chelsea regain their early influence?
  13. Hazard answers that by going on a mazy run into City’s defensive third. David Luiz picked him out with a ball between the lines right but the Belgium ran out of space and could only muster a weak shot.
  14. Aguero hits a screamer from outside the box for City’s second. It’s only right that he’d make up for his earlier miss with that strike. This match feels effectively over after 13 minutes as City have the type of style to turn a 1-0 lead into 4-0, much less when taking on a side that already have issues with mental fragility.
  15. Again, City are breaking Chelsea’s high press too easily. Chelsea’s pressing front four are isolated up front, and City’s wingbacks have acres of space after bypassing that initial line of pressure.
  16. Aguero gets his second goal, this time with a much easier finish. Ross Barkley heads the ball back into the 6-yard line for some reason and Aguero pounced. That could have been his hat trick.
  17. This match is over after 19 minutes.
  18. Barkley tries to atone for his error by curling a strike over the bar. That was decent possession from Chelsea, but there’s no confidence or bite and it feels like a formality. Higuain is isolated up front, going 1 on 3 against City defenders after receiving any outlets.
  19. Ilkay Gundogan gets City’s 4th goal. The scoreline is embarrassing, but so is how the goal happened with Aguero floating freely inside the box with no defensive attention. There’s still about 65 minutes remaining this match.
  20. While each side are going through the motions to play out the rest of this match. Chelsea’s best attacks are coming with Higuain involved in the build-up. But again, it’s hard to come to any conclusions at 4-0. Higuain finally gets a good strike on target, bringing out a save in Ederson.
  21. What can Sarri say or do at half-time? City look more likely to get a 5th than Chelsea do to get their opener.
  22. There are no changes for either side at half-time. But what would either side do anyway?
  23. City continue to play on the front foot with the lead as de Bruyne seemingly cannot shut off his attacking instincts. Aguero’s header goes off the crossbar with a cross sent in from de Bruyne. That’s 2 goals and 2 misses for Aguero this match.
  24. Barkley gets subbed off for Mateo Kovacic - for what is now the 19th time this season. The predictability of that substitution pattern mimics how easily rehearsed this Chelsea side are becoming in their play.
  25. A note on Barkley: he looked out of his depth in this match, which is disappointing considering how much he seemed to improve under Sarri earlier in the season.
  26. Sterling baited Cesar Azpilicueta into a penalty with a hesitation and acceleration. Aguero easily buries the penalty for his hat trick, his 11th in the Premier League. The chorus of his place in the Premier League striker pantheon grows louder.
  27. Jorginho gets a yellow card for a late challenge on Fernandinho. Chasing Fernandinho, Silva, and de Bruyne is not his game.
  28. Enter the subs. Gabriel Jesus and Ruben Loftus-Cheek come on. Marcos Alonso subs off for Emerson.
  29. Sterling gets his 2nd goal and City’s 6th goal. The sequence began with a through ball from David Silva to Zinchenko, who cut it back into the box. Zinchenko has been excellent this match. He and Sterling continue to pushy forward to get another goal in the 89th minute.
  30. Sarri leaves for the tunnel without shaking Guardiola’s hand.
  31. How does Sarri recover from this? It was the heaviest defeat for Chelsea in 28 years. Higuain never received support, Hazard only had moments, their midfield was never connected, and their backline kept switching off. They looked lost as a team, and one got the feeling that there was no way back after Sterling’s opener. Sarri said that their struggles weren’t a result of tactical issues, but there must be some relationship between the predictability of their patterns - and in using players in unfamiliar roles - and a lack of confidence. But Sarri said he will not change his style.
  32. On the flip side, City’s wingplay was incisive and devastating. When examining the differences between last season’s side with this year’s team, I can point to the development of Sterling and Bernardo Silva in how they constantly attack opposition backlines. I remember Guardiola saying before the season how he wanted Benjamin Mendy to play at left back despite Fabian Delph’s success due to Mendy’s ability to get to the endline and destabilize defenses. That trade of midfield control for directness in the final third may make the difference not only in the league, but in Europe as well.