MANCHESTER, England — Manchester City sent Chelsea crashing to a fifth defeat in seven games and out of the FA Cup as goals from Riyad Mahrez, Julian Alvarez and Phil Foden sealed an easy win at the Etihad Stadium.
The third-round defeat means Chelsea’s only hope of silverware this season is in the Champions League — they face Borussia Dortmund in the Round of 16 — but on this evidence, Chelsea won’t be lifting the European Cup in Istanbul in June.
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1. Man City rest their big stars and still cruise past struggling Chelsea
Manchester City made easy work of Chelsea to book an FA Cup fourth-round tie against Arsenal or Oxford United, and they didn’t even need prolific striker Erling Haaland to help them.
Despite the strength of the opposition, City manager Pep Guardiola started this match with Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne and goalkeeper Ederson on the bench. John Stones, Ilkay Gundogan and Joao Cancelo were also left out of the starting line-up.
But in what was an ominous warning of the depth that City have in their squad — and of the lack of confidence within Chelsea’s — the home side had the game won before half-time by scoring three times to kill off Chelsea’s hopes of a positive results.
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Guardiola’s teams throughout his career — Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Man City — have never suffered elimination at the first hurdle of a domestic cup competition, but Chelsea could have threatened that record had they been able to take advantage of City’s weakened line-up .
But the Chelsea team had lost four of their last six games prior to this fixture and, even before Riyad Mahrez’s opening goal, it appeared to be inevitable that the Blues were heading for another defeat at the Etihad.
Chelsea played like a team of strangers without any kind of plan, while City performed as if they were being put through a routine training drill by Guardiola. It was all too easy, and the 4-0 winning margin flattered Chelsea more than City.
Unless League One team Oxford pull off a major shock against Arsenal on Monday, City are likely to face a much tougher test against the Gunners in round four. Although Chelsea were so bad here that even lowly Oxford could give City more of a game if they get through to face Guardiola’s side.
2. Potter is becoming Chelsea’s version of Moyes when he flailed at Man United
Graham Potter is fighting for his future as Chelsea manager.
The former Brighton boss might limp on until the end of the season, having only been appointed at Stamford Bridge in September, but with every defeat, the 47-year-old is beginning to resemble David Moyes during his disastrous season in charge of Manchester United . Moyes’s downfall at Old Trafford was due to multiple factors, but Potter is repeating many of the mistakes made by the Scot at United.
The leap from Everton to United was too big for Moyes, and Potter now looks like he also needed a stepping stone between Brighton and Chelsea, rather than making such a huge move without the required experience.
Just like Moyes, Potter has remained loyal to assistants and coaches from his previous job, taking them all at Chelsea, but they also lack the credentials required. And Potter is also repeating Moyes’ mistake of being too honest and negative when speaking to the media — after all, sometimes a manager has to talk things up, even when the situation is bleak.
But ultimately, the biggest comparison is results. Potter is losing all of his big games, just like Moyes, and his players are beginning to switch off. Chelsea’s players appeared to shrink once Julian Alvarez put City 2-0 up from the penalty spot on 30 minutes and whatever message Potter is trying to get across, it isn’t working.
Potter’s lack of big-time pedigree, both as a coach and a player, always threatened to work against him if results went awry at Chelsea and that is proving to be the case. It happened to Moyes at United and it is happening to Potter. From this point onwards, it is tough to see how he turns his situation around.
3. Chelsea fans cheer for Tuchel and Abramovich, signaling more troubles ahead
Chelsea’s defeat at the Etihad consigned the club to their first FA Cup third round exit since 1998 — a time before the days when trophies were expected at Stamford Bridge.
Since that 5-3 defeat against Manchester United 25 years ago, Chelsea have grown accustomed to success in all of the major competitions, so their supporters are growing increasingly restless at the prospect of no silverware this season.
But when they started to sing the names of former owner Roman Abramovich and former manager Thomas Tuchel during the second half, it pointed to trouble ahead for the new regime at the club.
Tuchel was fired as manager in September less than 18 months after winning the Champions League for Chelsea. The former Paris Saint-Germain coach had also taken the team to last season’s FA Cup and Carabao Cup finals, losing both on penalties to Liverpool.
He was popular with the fans, but new owner Todd Boehly chose to dismiss Tuchel after a poor start to this season and replace him with Brighton boss Graham Potter. And Boehly, who has overseen a spending spree in excess of £300m since buying the club from Abramovich, is hearing his predecessor’s name being sung by fans because they regard many of his decisions as making the team and club weaker.
Russian oligarch Abramovich was forced to sell the club due to sanctions imposed by the British government because of his connections to Russian president Vladimir Putin, but the Chelsea fans haven’t forgotten how he transformed the club into serial winners. Boehly, an American and part owner of the LA Dodgers, completed the takeover in May.
Both Potter and Boehly seem a long, long way from emulating their predecessors and if the team doesn’t start winning soon, the noise from the fans will only get louder.
Man City: Stefan Ortega 6; Kyle Walker 7, Manuel Akanji 6, Aymeric Laporte 7, Sergio Gomez 6; Rodri 6, Bernardo Silva 7, Riyad Mahrez 7; Phil Foden 7, Julian Alvarez 7, Cole Palmer 6.
Subs: Kalvin Phillips 6, Joao Cancelo 6.
Chelsea: Kepa Arrizabalaga 6; Trevoh Chalobah 5, Bashir Humphreys 6; Jorginho 5, Matthew Kovacic 6, Conor Gallagher 6; Mason Mount 6, Hakim Ziyech 5, Kai Havertz 4.
Subs: David Fofana 6, Omari Hutchinson 6.
Best and worst performers
BEST: Riyad Mahrez, Manchester City
Scored a stunning free-kick to give City the lead and was the best attacker on the pitch.
WORST: Kai Havertz, Chelsea
Gave away a penalty and did little else other than drift around the pitch making little or no contribution before being substituted.
Highlights and notable moments
There were lots of highlights — as long as you’re a Man City fan.
Riyad Mahrez started the scoring off with a sensational free kick in the 23rd minute.
RIYAD MAHREZ WHAT A FREE KICK 🔥 pic.twitter.com/pGLSmKdMiM
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) January 8, 2023
A pretty blatant handball from Chelsea’s Kai Havertz went unnoticed in the moment, but video replays don’t lie.
After a brief stoppage, Julián Álvarez stepped up to the spot and scored.
Julian Alvarez scores from the spot in his first start since winning the World Cup 👏 pic.twitter.com/Ld8LlNtaDs
— ESPN+ (@ESPNPlus) January 8, 2023
This is about the time when it looked like Chelsea were out of it with no hope to wage a comeback.
Man City’s Phil Foden made sure of it in the 38th minute.
PHIL FODEN PUTS MAN CITY UP 3-0 OVER CHELSEA 😳 pic.twitter.com/4WZtBnSiu0
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) January 8, 2023
After those goals, there was a whole second half left to be played, but this one was already decided by halftime. Mahrez added one more penalty in the 8th minute for the 4-0 score.
After the match: What the players and managers said
Quotes will appear here when available. Check back shortly…
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
Julián Álvarez has scored in all 5 competitions he has played in for Manchester City (Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup, Carabao Cup, Community Shield).
This is the second this season in all competition that Chelsea failed to record a shot within the first 30 minutes of a game, the previous being on Oct. 19 in a 0-0 draw vs. Brentford.
Man City is the first team to hold Chelsea without a shot in the first half of a game in any competition since Man City did it on Jan. 15, 2022, which City won 1-0.
With zero shots from Chelsea, this is the eighth time in the last five seasons that Chelsea has managed one or fewer shots in the first half of a match, all competitions. Five of those matches have been against Manchester City — the other three were Newcastle in 2022, Porto in 2021 and Liverpool in 2020.
Manchester United: The cup competitions continue for the Citizens as they return on Wednesday, Jan. 11 for the Carabao Cup in Southampton (live on ESPN+ at 3 pm ET). Then, they stay in Manchester but visit rival Manchester United in Premier League action on Saturday, Jan. 14.
Chelsea: The Blues head to Fulham on Thursday, Jan. 12 in Premier League action and then quickly turnaround to host Crystal Palace on Sunday, Jan. 15.