Man City hit sorry Chelsea for six to inflict record league defeat
Sergio Agüero fired a hat-trick as Guardiola’s side overtook Liverpool to go back to the top
Sergio Agüero of Manchester City celebrates after scoring his team’s fifth goal during the Premier League win over Chelsea. Photo: Michael Regan/Getty Images
Manchester City 6 Chelsea 0
For Manchester City, it was a supreme way to round off an immaculate week. One by one they have been ticked off: first Arsenal, then Everton and, finally, a Chelsea side that looked in need of smelling salts before we had even reached the midway stage of the first half. Three games, 11 goals, nine points, and more fool anyone who thought this might be the most difficult assignment.
What actually happened was a full peacock-like spreading of City’s feathers, featuring a four-goal blitz inside the opening 24 minutes, another hat-trick for Sergio Agüero and the feeling, once again, that if Liverpool can beat this team to the Premier League title it will rank as the most exceptional performance of any of the championship-winning sides from Anfield through the years.
If anything, it was just a surprise City did not add even more after the blizzard of first-half goals. City have now scored twice or more in every single home match this season and no top-division team has managed that in 15 successive games since Tottenham Hotspur from March to December 1965, with Bill Nicholson in the dugout and Jimmy Greaves terrorising opposition defences. Including the cup competitions, City’s total of 33 goals from their last five home games feels like a statistic from another era.
For Agüero, it was his 15th hat-trick in City’s colours, equalling Alan Shearer’s record in the Premier League era, and perhaps it would be impertinent to dwell too long on the moment, at 1-0, when he also produced possibly the worst miss of all his years in English football. Two yards out, Agüero might argue you would have to go even further back to find similar. No matter: his first goal came five minutes later and perhaps there was a measure of anger contained in that firecracker of a shot, 25 yards out, into the top corner of Kepa Arrizabalaga’s net. Missing a sitter, scoring a screamer – who cares if it was unorthodox when Agüero has 25 goals in his last 16 starts for City on this ground?
By the time they were done, City had moved above Liverpool to the top of the table and it did not feel unfair to wonder whether this might be the kind of performance that endangers Maurizio Sarri’s position as Chelsea manager. Put it this way: Roman Abramovich has sacked managers for less. This was their fourth successive away defeat in all competitions and everyone connected with Chelsea must be alarmed by their deterioration, particularly having just been whacked 4-0 at Bournemouth. The sixth goal means Chelsea drop below Arsenal to sixth position on goal difference. Yes, there is the Carabao Cup final to come on 24 February and a chance to decorate an increasingly problematic season with some silverware. Just don’t bet your mortgage on it: the opposition at Wembley will be Manchester City.
Chelsea have not even managed an away goal since 30 December but their problems here owed more to chaotic defending and a collective meltdown after it all began, four minutes in, with Kevin De Bruyne slipping a free-kick behind the opposition defence to find Bernardo Silva completely free. Chelsea had actually looked quite bright in the opening exchanges but the lack of marking and organisation was startling. Bernardo Silva jinked into the penalty area and his low cross flicked off David Luiz to roll invitingly into Sterling’s path. Sterling found the gap between Arrizabalaga and the goalkeeper’s right-hand post and, after that, Chelsea capitulated.
If nothing else, at least Sarri could see some encouraging signs that Gonzalo Higuaín, the new arrowhead to their attack. Even on the wrong end of a chasing, Higuaín troubled the City defence with enough regularity to justify why the club were so keen to bring him on loan from Juventus.
No team, however, can expect to get away with defending as abjectly as Chelsea did during the period in the first half when the damage was inflicted. Chelsea conceded a goal every five minutes on average throughout that spell and, though an argument could be made that City pressurised them into mistakes, that was not always the case.
Agüero’s second goal was a case in point, originating from Ross Barkley trying to head the ball back to his goalkeeper from the edge of the penalty area. It is an old Paul Gascoigne trick and if it comes off, with so many opponents in close proximity, it looks good. If it does not, well, it can make the person trying it look foolish, indeed. Barkley got it horrible wrong and Agüero pounced to get in front of the goalkeeper and score with a swivelling left-footed shot.
If Chelsea had done their homework, they should not have been surprised by the onslaught. In the opening 15-minute periods of their games, City have now scored 15 times and, to put that in context, the next most impressive figure belongs to Arsenal, with seven. It was 3-0 after 18 minutes and Ilkay Gündogan swiftly made it four, catching out Arrizabalaga with a 20-yard effort into the bottom corner.
Agüero completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot ten minutes into the second half, after César Azpilicueta’s foul on Sterling, and City’s record scorer also headed one of De Bruyne’s beautifully delivered crosses against the crossbar before making way for Gabriel Jesus. Oleksandr Zinchenko, one of several outstanding performers, supplied the cross for Sterling to complete the rout. It was the heaviest defeat Chelsea have suffered in the Abramovich era – the heaviest indeed since losing 7-0 at Nottingham Forest in 1991 – and Sarri went straight down the tunnel at the end without shaking Guardiola’s hand. – Guardian service