Saturday, November 27

Jack Grealish finds a different rhythm to dance Chelsea into submission | Chelsea

TThere were four minutes to go until Jack Grealish left the field of play. Manchester City were still deep in the boiler room, seeing a 1-0 lead in a game they had dominated for long stretches in a strangling fashion. But there was still time for a round of handshakes, back slaps and buttocks slaps, most notably from his replacement Raheem Sterling, who had sat for 85 minutes watching Grealish produce a quiet flank masterpiece that he had been deprived of Sterling himself. strip of grass for long periods last season.

There was nothing from Pep Guardiola, although Grealish did cast an anxious and prolonged look at the manic figure in black, who at that moment was caught in twisting his arms and barking thoughts, ideas, tinkering, fears, assorted counter-theories.

The report will come later. But Grealish knew he had been well-behaved here, frolicking like a handsome 1930s schoolboy public, brain humming, calves exploding with ballet power, always looking for a moment, a sliver of space.

City hired Grealish to offer a tangible point of difference and it’s a good situation when a club can afford to spend £ 100m on fringe profits, altered angles, a note of grace the piece does. But that’s exactly what Grealish delivered at Stamford Bridge with a fearless, head-to-head attacking performance in his first Premier League match of this scale.

That influence was there in the winning goal in the 53rd minute. Gabriel Jesús, the scorer, will occupy the headlines. With good reason: he had a wonderful game. His goal came from the 10th corner of City, most of them forced by Grealish’s flank. This is not a big surprise. There is a kind of cruelty to Grealish’s game, in the way he takes on a defender in those positions, challenging him to blink, to drop his concentration. It really must be exhausting playing against him.

Kevin De Bruyne took the kick. The ball headed straight up into the air. Finally it was Jesus’ turn, who was able to turn and shoot at ground level, passing Édouard Mendy.

It felt like something inevitable. City had dominated this game to an odd degree, with 67% possession at the time and 400 passes to the home team’s 200. No matter how skilled, how stifling your defense lines are, eventually some football is going to happen.

Moments later, Grealish was about to do two. Once again, he simply stood close to César Azpilicueta and asked him to dance, diving one way, sneaking the other, and throwing a short, high-tech punch, the soccer equivalent of a one-inch punch, which was deflected. just beyond the distance. mail.

That’s what Grealish is for in City. Head erect, shoulders squared, mane flapping like a dressage horse, he also fumbled the ball four times in the first hour, slowed down the game, gave an extra touch, but always offered a vital random element to what for over long periods of time. periods was a suffocating game. of football systems.

Despite the sense of a sky blue machine in action, the same set of ideas spinning relentlessly, Guardiola also has a fondness for sparks of difference. Riyad Mahrez also offers this. And here Grealish even added some old-fashioned needles, squaring off Azpilicueta and, judging by the body language, suggesting a personal date a little later behind the medical center.

Thomas Tuchel watches as Jack Grealish accepts a free throw.
Thomas Tuchel watches as Jack Grealish accepts a free throw. Photography: Javier García / Shutterstock

Stamford Bridge had been a bustling place at the start, as Guardiola started the afternoon with a 5D chess move, showing what a fairly orthodox starting XI was on paper, with a genuine midfielder in Rodri and a normal center forward in Jesus. .

Except, of course, there was a twist – slicing Pep into a crumpled rain mallet, turning in the door, and just, one last thing – with Phil Foden acting as the center forward and Jesus on the right.

Thomas Tuchel responded with a selection that included five defenders, two defensive midfielders and only two footballers who could reasonably be expected to score a goal, one of whom, with all due respect, was Timo Werner. And that’s how the game unfolded in the opening minutes, as City enjoyed something close to total control.

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Tuchel could be seen jumping on his touchline during the half, urging his midfield to play higher on the field. But Chelsea remained a restricted presence, the football equivalent of a man with something stuck in his throat still bravely trying to deliver his opening speech.

Despite all this, Bernardo Silva had a wonderful and passionate game in central midfield, proving once again how brilliant a versatile player he is and that he works well together with De Bruyne. The beauty of Grealish in this mix is ​​that he also does De Bruyne stuff, taking a bit of that creative charge that sets the tempo.

There was a bond between the two here, and a sense of game-making common sense. It will be fascinating to see how Guardiola plays with this, and he will refuse to see a player of Grealish quality seated on one flank. Central grealish, nine false grealish, wandering grealish – all of this will surely come. Here his boldness on the left was a fine blend with the bustle of Jesus and a vital point of difference throughout.

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