Mason Mount was injured on the eve and Graham Potter had to deal with two of his attackers before the half-way mark of the first period had begun.
First-half efforts are not affected by switches
Although he had to abandon his pre-match plans, the Blues’ first-half performance was impressive thanks to the substitutions made by the head coach.
City had plenty to consider thanks to the width provided by Hakim Zyech to the right and Carney Chukwuemeka ability to drift infield with Marc Cucurella overlay. That strategy almost gave us the lead at half-time, but Chukwuemeka’s goal was the result.
Kai Arertz was an excellent focal point. He held the ball up, switched the play and created a game-high of four chances for his teammates.
Our defensive resilience was also displayed, with 15 tackles won and nine interceptions made in the first 45 minutes. Our ability to stop City’s supply lines was demonstrated by the fact that we limited Erling Haaland’s touches to only 11 in this time frame.
Zakaria is a midfielder with bite and skill
The enforced changes ahead of them meant that our central midfield duo Denis Zakaria, and Mateo Kovacic provided stability and strength for the Chelsea side. Particularly Zakaria was impressive, as he becomes more used to English football.
Zakaria’s remarkable pass completion rate, 93%, is the highest of any Blue. It should be viewed in context of the intense midfield battles and Man City’s famous pressing style.
His three take-ons were even better than any other player, and helped us move upfield with purpose. The average position of the Swiss international was slightly higher than Kovacic’s, but they were both very well-informed. The other resisted when one of them joined the attack.
Zakaria’s performance in the biggest game of his career was a big plus.
Koulibaly is crucial defensively
Kalidou Koulibaly was the other Blues player that stood out in terms of stats. He was the most active player, with more touches and more successful passes than any other.
We also won two aerial duels by the defender, made three clearances, two tackles, and two interceptions. Apart from a short spell in the second period, our visitors were kept at arm’s reach.