Football Features

“The best attacking team in England” – Five things learned as brilliant Chelsea beat Leeds to go top

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 22:27, 5 December 2020 | Updated: 15:39, 11 September 2021

In an open and exciting game of football, Chelsea came from behind to beat Leeds 2-1 at Stamford Bridge.

The win takes the Blues to the top of the table ahead of the North London Derby tomorrow. What did we learn?

1. Olivier Giroud cannot be stopped

Four goals in midweek was a pretty incredible haul for Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman was superb, so much so that Frank Lampard gave him the start in the Premier League (his first of the season) and the Frenchman delivered with a massive equaliser in the first-half.

Leeds had taken the lead and looked like they could run away from Chelsea on the break, but the Blues fought their way back into it. A lovely bit of play on the right saw Hakim Ziyech release Reece James. The Englishman did his thing and whipped in a brutal near-post cross and Giroud’s movement saw him in space to open up his body and slam the ball home.

After that, Giroud’s movement continued to baffle the Leeds defenders so much so that despite ostensibly possessing no pace he was still able to generate open looks. All told Giroud had 6 shots, more than any other player. In truth he should have scored more than one, but he did at least notch one to make it 14 goals scored in his last 13 starts for Chelsea. That ridiculous record confirms that despite all the hype around other players and the fact that he had to fight his way into the XI again, Olivier Giroud remains Chelsea’s best striker.

2. Kalvin Phillips is a mastermind

Leeds United started brightly against the Blues at the Bridge but in the end they ran out of steam and got run off the pitch by a classy Chelsea team that went to the top of the league. But their best moment, in fact the game’s best moment, was Kalvin Phillips’ pass to Patrick Bamford for Leeds’ opening goal.

Phillips is ostensibly a defensive midfielder, but once he found himself wide left he showed his passing range by bending an outrageous pass 30 yards forward and across the ground, absolutely devastating Kurt Zouma and Edouard Mendy.

The defender and goalkeeper had been basically flawless all season up to that point, but Phillips reduced them to mere atoms. Zouma was floored, Mendy came and then was rounded by Patrick Bamford who tucked the ball home (Zouma would later get his revenge by scoring the game-winning goal from a corner).

Phillips is a truly special talent, because not only can he play passes like that but he is a battler. He had a game-high 6 tackles and made 3 clearances too boot. It was a bad game for Leeds in general, but Phillips proved tonight can go to the very top of the game.

3. Timo Werner has a problem

Timo Werner is a fantastic player, a player bursting full of incredible talent, a player with searing pace and the ability to up the tempo of his side’s play every time he gets the ball. When you leave space behind your defence, Werner devours that space and causes havoc.

He also misses easy chances. Like, really easy chances. And he does it a lot.

Only three players have missed more big chances than Werner has so far this season, and two of them are struggling strikers in the bottom three (Ollie McBurnie and Chris Wood) while the third is Patrick Bamford, who has missed a whopping nine big chances.

But while Bamford is a perpetual motion machine whose endless pressing explains those poor misses, Werner doesn’t have any especially demanding defensive duties yet when he gets put into great positions where you’d be sure he has to score; he doesn’t. He whiffs the shots right at the goalkeeper. Today against Leeds he ought to have bagged a hat-trick. One chance he had saw him almost clear the ball off the line as he somehow stopped an Olivier Giroud goalbound effort before smashing his shot off the bar!

No one could deny Werner’s ability (and the cross he put in for Christian Pulisic to kill the game off was perfectly timed) but you’d imagine his poor finishing is going to become a serious issue for Chelsea at some point.

4. A rivalry reinvented

The Chelsea-Leeds rivalry is one characterised by brutality. It began in the 60’s and bled through the 70’s and 80’s as both sides tried to out-macho each other through sheer violence. Don Revie said southern teams were too soft to hack it and Chelsea, to quote The Last Dance, “took that personally.” The 1970 FA Cup Final being the apex of their rivalry and possibly of the violence too (Chelsea won).

So when Chelsea and Leeds met in Stamford Bridge, one halfway expected a celebration of violence to shame Quentin Tarantino would break out; but no. Too long has passed and too much has changed. Neither Chelsea nor Leeds are “soft” but they are teams that prioritise football over fighting and as a result the game was fast and relentless, yes, but also clean and full of technical excellence.

This is the new state of the Chelsea-Leeds rivalry. None of the sharpness has been lost, none of the bite, but the violence has been replaced by beautiful, relentless attacking football.

5. The best attacking team in England

Chelsea beat Leeds. And for an hour it felt like a close game. After that hour? It was just strange that Chelsea only scored three. The sheer relentless nature of their attack is overwhelming. Leeds couldn’t really live with it. 23 shots, 10 on target, they were incredible.

Chelsea’s squad is so loaded with attacking talent that even if their defence was creaky, you would back them to win more games than not given how often they drive it forward and create chances. Both in open play but particularly from set-pieces.

Mason Mount created more chances (7) than all the Leeds players put together (6) and that’s because of his incredible set-piece ability, whipping deadly corners in. Chelsea’s gamewinner came from one of them and they could have scored more from them and they have scored more from them (7) than any other team has this season, four more in fact!

The Blues are top scorers in the league, and you couldn’t rule out them building a convincing title challenge off their attack alone. In midweek Julen Lopetegui said, of Chelsea: “A team with great footballers and they’re currently the best attacking team in England.”

That was a big thing to say, and given Chelsea dismantled his Sevilla side 0-4 and have now torn Leeds to shreds with a superb second-half display, you wouldn’t argue with him, would you? Hats off to Chelsea, a relentless hurricane of goals.

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