Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Passengers Looked So Tired on Mourinho's Nightbus; Comprehensive Defeat Shows Chelsea Are Still Feeling Draining Effects of Last Season's Journey to the Title, Writes James Olley

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Passengers Looked So Tired on Mourinho's Nightbus; Comprehensive Defeat Shows Chelsea Are Still Feeling Draining Effects of Last Season's Journey to the Title, Writes James Olley

Article excerpt

Byline: writes James Olley

MAN CITY 3 CHELSEA 0 CHELSEA'S title defence is dependent upon keeping their best players fit and in form. Manchester City offered an early season vision of what will happen if they don't.

After all, City may have spent PS49million on Raheem Sterling but while he was lively on his home debut, their commanding performance was founded on a return to form for the existing spine of Manuel Pellegrini's side.

Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany were resilient and robust when called upon, Yaya Toure continued to look reinvigorated this season, David Silva orchestrated much of Chelsea's pain in their defensive third while Sergio Aguero made a pressing case as the most fearsome striker in the world.

Contrast that to Chelsea's core group, with the same outfield 10 lining up as in last season's corresponding fixture -- which they were five minutes away from winning -- and eight who started the year before, when Mourinho 'parked the bus' and stole three precious points.

We are used to what has become known as a 'Mourinho masterclass' in these big games, a cautious deployment of a team rigidly dogged in defence and clinical on the counter-attack.

This time, he brought the nightbus: its passengers looked tired and vacant, intent merely on getting back home as soon as possible.

Eden Hazard, utterly brilliant here two years ago, was a peripheral figure before missing his team's best chance of the day 20 minutes from the end. Diego Costa spent the entire 90 minutes sparring for a fight without throwing a meaningful punch while at the other end Aguero landed blow after blow. Nemanja Matic looked a shadow of the colossal midfield presence so central to Chelsea's solidity last season while Cesc Fabregas was unable to pick the right pass or consistently adopt the right defensive positions without the ball.

Branislav Ivanovic was absent-minded in defence but the greatest ignominy was saved for John Terry, who was withdrawn at the interval and effectively blamed for their dismal first-half showing. It is the lot of a 34-year-old that as soon as you throw in a poor performance in a big game, immediate questions about whether your best days are behind you surface with ferocity and velocity.

Such an assessment is ludicrously premature -- it was the first time in 177 games Mourinho has substituted Terry -- but it was nevertheless a damning indictment of the Chelsea skipper to be withdrawn at the break as his manager cited a lack of pace in central defence.

There was logic in Mourinho's explanation -- he required Kurt Zouma to counter City's pace on the break as Chelsea pushed up the pitch in search of an equaliser -- but for Terry to be taken off rather than Gary Cahill, who was already nursing yet another facial injury, felt a pointed criticism. …

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