LONDON — Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini criticised Chelsea’s “small team” mentality and said they played like Stoke City during their tense 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
Much like last season’s masterful 1-0 win at the same venue, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho opted to play three midfielders to negate City’s array of attacking players.
Ramires replaced Oscar and started alongside Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas to counter the hosts midfield which contained powerhouse Yaya Toure, the creative David Silva and the energetic pair of James Milner and Fernandinho.
Pellegrini, however, was critical of Chelsea’s tactics after Frank Lampard rescued a late point for the champions against his former club following Andre Schuerrle’s opener.
“It is not a result that I want, not what we deserved, but the game was very similar to the game against Stoke,” the Chilean told the BBC.
“Ten players defended their own half, they scored a counter attack and they continued to defend until the end. The result is not what both teams did during 90 minutes.
“I am happy because our team played in one way, we continued playing with 11 players, trying to score, and with one player less trying not to have another counter attack and concede a goal. I am very happy with the mentality of our team,” he added in reference to Pablo Zabaleta’s 66th-minute dismissal.
“It is so important to play like a big team, and not like a small team. I would not be happy to play that way. We continue with the same ambition, teams will find it hard to beat us. The team performance was very good.
When asked for his reaction to Pellegrini’s assessment of Chelsea’s performance, an irritated Mourinho said: “Many times he says he doesn’t speak about me or my team, but he continues to do so. Don’t ask me about these words.”
Sky Sports United Kingdom pundit Gary Neville said master-tactician Mourinho was right to change Chelsea’s approach and thinks their adaptability will see them win the Premier League title.
“They’re adaptable and they have to be. They’ve come here today and they pay respect to their opposition, they change. That’s what the top sides have to do. They have to go to grounds and adapt to how they play.
“Mourinho does that and Chelsea are able to take their instructions on board. They’re experienced enough and intelligent enough to be able to do it and that’s what the top teams are.
“They don’t just go out and play their same game every week. That’s why they are a top side and that’s why I think they will win the league.” — Reuters