3:00 FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester City’s 2-1 win against Chelsea
What was perhaps most impressive, though, was that City managed it despite having just 46.7 per cent of the possession. It was, according to Opta, the lowest possession share by a Guardiola side in any of his 381 top-flight matches as a manager. Despite those extremely unusual circumstances, City adapted to the challenge without any problem.
«People expect us to have 70 per cent possession, but these guys have a lot of quality,» De Bruyne told Sky Sports afterwards. «Props to them, they can keep the ball with the quality they have. But it shows the other side of our quality. We can control the game without having most of the ball.»
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Their resolute defensive display was exactly what they needed after all the questions that have been asked of them recently. Aymeric Laporte was a spectator again at the Etihad Stadium — it will be several months yet before he is ready to return — but Fernandinho was excellent in his place and John Stones impressed alongside him.
Kyle Walker and Angelino struggled badly at full-back in the Liverpool game, but they were replaced by Benjamin Mendy and Joao Cancelo, who kept Willian and Christian Pulisic relatively quiet throughout. In midfield, meanwhile, Rodri improved before injury forced him off in the second half, with Ilkay Gundogan then helping to shore things up in his place.
When they did have the ball, City sprang forward to dangerously, transitioning at speed and finding gaps in Chelsea’s defence. It was only thanks to Kepa’s superb reflex save from Mahrez midway through the second half that Chelsea hung on as long as they did.
Mahrez makes a difference
On his first Premier League appearance of any kind since the 2-0 loss to Wolves at the start of October, Mahrez provided a reminder of his considerable quality. The Algerian seems to drift in and out of favour with Guardiola, but on this evidence he will be tough to leave out in the weeks ahead.
His goal — a curling finish that gave Kepa no chance after a mazy dribble between Mateo Kovacic and Emerson — was outstanding, and it was just one of many standout moments. By the end, he had taken more shots than any other player on the pitch and completed twice as many dribbles as any of his team-mates.
Mahrez was so good, in fact, that the beleaguered Emerson had to be hauled off before the hour-mark, with the more experienced and defensively-minded Cesar Azpilicueta switching from right-back to left-back in an attempt to stop him. Mahrez was quieter in the closing stages, but his work was already done.