Missing both his first-choice full-backs, Potter turned to Lewis Hall and Trevoh Chalobah to match City’s wingers with young Bashir Humphreys in the middle alongside Kalidou Koulibaly. A commendable, albeit somewhat forced given the injury crisis, decision of course but Pep Guardiola’s ruthless attackers were able to toy with them at ease.
While it matters little now, the visitors actually looked comfortable in the opening stages. Brave enough to build from the back despite City’s machine-like press, both Kai Havertz and Mason Mount had caught the home side out on the break but were unable to bring through balls under control.
Minutes after Hakim Ziyech had got past Sergio Gomez on the counter, however, Riyad Mahrez struck. The Algerian hit a thunderous free-kick just after the 22nd minute mark following a foul from Hall and the floodgates duly opened.
Fewer than ten minutes later, Havertz handled in the box, allowing World Cup-winner Julian Alvarez to squeeze a pretty tame penalty through Kepa Arrizabalaga’s grasp, which perhaps best sums up how meek this Chelsea performance was.
Where individual mistakes allowed City to race into a two-goal lead, the third was a destruction of the entire team. The Premier League champions played with their opposition as the collective body language dropped, switching play from left to right before Mahrez freed an overlapping Kyle Walker, who squared for Phil Foden to fire the hosts into an almighty lead at the break.
It was not until the 54th minute that stand-in City ‘keeper Stefan Ortega was forced into a save when Mount’s shot from a wide position inside the box caused only the slightest concern. The introductions of David Datro Fofana and Denis Zakaria did at least give Potter’s side an added thrust, although the caveat of City’s extensive lead must be applied.
Carney Chukwuemeka and Omari Hutchinson also helped the cause somewhat, adding a pulse to a Chelsea attack who sleepwalked for much of the opening hour. Still, to have spent so much money in two transfer windows under new ownership only to rely on a raft of youngsters to add some vague feeling of respect onto the performance underlines just where Chelsea are at the moment.
If anything, Mahrez’s late penalty following Koulibaly’s foul on Phil Foden only gave further credence to a munity that appeared to be building amongst the traveling support.
Prior to Sunday’s meeting, Potter had called for his team to “ride out the storm” following Thursday’s loss to City at Stamford Bridge.
Amid audible chants for the return of Thomas Tuchel from the away end, it seems this team are yet to even face the worst of the weather.