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Five Things Learned: Manchester City 1-0 Chelsea (Emirates FA Cup Semi-Final)



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Bernardo Silva’s late goal gave Manchester City a victory over Chelsea and secured a spot in the Emirates FA Cup final.

Manchester City are set to play the winner of Sunday’s match against Coventry City and Manchester United in the final on Saturday 25th May at Wembley Stadium, after Bernardo Silva secured a hard-fought win over Chelsea.

The Sky Blues reached successive FA Cup final’s for the first time since 1956, and extended the current unbeaten run to a record 29 matches on Saturday evening in north London.

It was a sluggish first-half from Pep Guardiola’s side. Despite having a majority of possession, the defending FA Cup winners were unable to muster a single shot on target in the half.

It was clear the squad was still reeling after playing over 120 minutes against Real Madrid less than 72 hours prior. Chelsea’s strategy was to pray on that fatigue and look to play on the counter.

The biggest moment for either side came midway through the opening period, when Nico Jackson was clean through on goal with acres of space. However, the Senegalese striker bizarrely didn’t even attempt a shot despite rounding Stefan Ortega. It was far and away Chelsea’s best chance of the entire match.

The second half-played out in similar fashion, until Jeremy Doku was brought on for Jack Grealish after another 20 minutes. From the moment the Belgian came on, the side looked more energetic and dangerous in attack.

It all finally came together in the 84th minute when Bernardo pounced on a poor clearance attempt for a tap-in. It was setup by a lovely bit of team play that saw Doku put a ball in behind for De Bruyne to cross into a dangerous area. 

Chelsea had a bit of a response after the goal, and even had an opportunity to equalise in the closing moments but Mykhalio Mudryk’s overcooked set piece flew out for a goal kick.

As the final whistle blew, Guardiola looked ecstatic as his squad managed a way to find a win seemingly against all odds.

Here are the five things we learned from Manchester City’s semi-final win against Chelsea!

“We are tired, f*ck you!”

Guardiola’s famous words to his team before a pivotal match, despite being nearly 20 points above second place Manchester United, were captured in the Amazon documentary ‘All or Nothing’.

It’s clear that seven years later, that sentiment hasn’t changed. Less than 72 hours after an exhausting performance against Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals, nine of the 10 outfield players started again against Chelsea. 

The result? A middling performance but a berth in the FA Cup final. It was a peculiar decision. Potentially an attempt to boost confidence after the disappointing midweek result. Fortunately there’s an extra day of rest with the Brighton match scheduled to take play on Thursday, but the nine days off clearly would’ve been beneficial for the squad as well.

Guardiola was defiant in his post match comments, highlighting the ridicuouslnees around the congested schedule.

Kevin De Bruyne admitted to be fatigued, Bernardo looks off it, Rodri has been asking for rest for over a year, Haaland is injured and John Stones was replaced at half-time, without a reason given.

The squad is light, knackered and have seven matches left to try and follow up a historic treble with a domestic double. Hopefully they pull through!

Jeremy Doku against tired legs is unfair

Just like the midweek fixture against Real Madrid, Doku made an immediate impact as a reinforcement. The Belgian repeatedly took Malo Gusto on and beat him with ease, causing the Frenchman to come off. Doku had the team’s second shot on target after less than five minutes of action, and played a role in the winner.

It is a FIFA-esque strategy to bring the pace winger on to wreck havoc late in matches, but one of the few video game strategies that seems to work in real life as well.

Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne are now a midfield pairing

It took eight season for Phil Foden to finally get consistent midfield minutes. Guardiola stated time and time again, ad nauseam, that he wasn’t ready. Yet after two mistakes in the closing moments against Crystal Palace, the 23-year-old seemed to immediately learn.

Four months later, after weeks and weeks of Guardiola saying the two can’t play together in midfield. That pairing has looked the best in the limited minutes they featured together in both Real Madrid legs, and spent nearly the entire match as the midfielders against Chelsea.

It’s refreshing to see that Pep is willing to adapt, and shows that Foden continues to develop at a rapid pace.

Even more proof of squad depth needed

A major talking point since the summer has been the need for a deeper squad, and today’s match was yet another example. Same exact midfield, and Haaland didn’t play due to injury. It’s clear Guardiola does not trust his bench yet. Whether it’s Jamal Musiala, Lucas Paqueta or Florain Wirtz, replacements are desperately needed.

No special treatment for the kids

After seeing Jadon Sancho, Brahim Diaz, Jeremie Frimpong, and Cole Palmer all leave for more minutes, Pep Guardiola has yet to change his stance on youth players. Oscar Bobb and Rico Lewis are two of the brightest talents in England, if not all of Europe, yet they continue to see limited minutes.

Leaving has done wonders for some, and produced middling results for others. It’s a difficult decision. However, Palmer’s instant success might cause them to start considering other options. Hopefully they trust the Foden process, but it’s hard to blame them if they don’t.