Three talking points from Chelsea’s defeat at Leeds United

LEEDS, ENGLAND - AUGUST 21: Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel reacts during the Premier League match between Leeds United and Chelsea FC at Elland Road on August 21, 2022 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LEEDS, ENGLAND - AUGUST 21: Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel reacts during the Premier League match between Leeds United and Chelsea FC at Elland Road on August 21, 2022 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images) /

It goes without saying Sunday’s was a horrendous game for Chelsea. The Blues were unable to play their brand of football, or even get a foothold in the game, as they were soundly beaten by their bitter rival, Leeds United, at Elland Road. There are a lot of takeaways—most of them negative—in which Thomas Tuchel will evaluate and improve for next game. It’s time to discuss three things that we learned in the shocking defeat on Sunday.

Here are three of the biggest talking points from the disappointing away day:

1. No midfield, no attack

In Chelsea’s previous Premier League game against Spurs, the home side was the better team because there was a presence midfield. Against Leeds, however, the midfield was non-existent. Therefore, the attack was never a factor either. The injuries to N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic saw Thomas Tuchel implement a Conor Gallagher-Jorginho pivot in the middle of the park; while Kai Havertz, Mason Mount and Raheem Sterling conducted the attack in front of them. Even though all of these names would bring fans to assume there was a congested midfield, this was not the case. Gallagher and Jorginho did their best to recover the ball and shield for the defense on the day, but they were never able to take control of the game.

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Consequently, the visitors were never in control of the ball. Leeds’ high, intense press was a problem from the opening whistle. This meant the Blues either had to beat said press by counter-attacking fast or controlling the game and keeping possession. Neither happened and the team suffered. Most of the game, Chelsea players were chasing after their opponents, or worse, trying to recover the ball after being pressed out of possession. Neither midfielder was successful on the day and this unbalanced the team by causing issues all over the pitch.

Ultimately, this left the Blues with one option: play wide and cross the ball. Havertz, Mount and Sterling did not have—and did not provide—any vertical solutions. Instead, they focused their efforts on supporting the other wide players. In doing so, the attackers forced the team to play crosses into an area where nobody was waiting to get on the other end of the passes. In the end, Chelsea was unable to play its brand of football and caused all sorts of problems for itself up and down the pitch. Tuchel’s side was thoroughly beaten.

2. Chelsea was exposed

This game exposed the Blues’ biggest problems for the season. They aren’t seemingly capable of breaking a press and they lack of vertical attack. Leeds’ pressing style is not unique to the Whites, and any other team can replicate the same tactic until Chelsea makes a mistake or two. Should that be the case, the Blues are in for a long season. Not being able to break an intense high press is detrimental to a team. Against Leeds, Chelsea looked panicked every time the team was on the ball. This resulted in either an individual error or the side losing the ball in dangerous areas near its find third. Against any top side, these inabilities would cost the Blues more than three goals.

Leeds also showed that if you stop the Chelsea midfield, you also stop the attack. The Blues had no chance at playing through the middle, which is the team’s strength, as their pivot men were running around into undisciplined positions. Havertz, Mount and Sterling could not play off one another due to a lack of proper service from Gallagher or Jorginho. This, of course, must change and the team needs to be creative in finding solutions.

3. How many mistakes is too many mistakes?

This is not a call for Edouard Mendy to be benched, but at the very least, Tuchel should let him know loud and clear that his mistakes cannot be tolerated. This is not the first time Mendy has cooked up an error of that type. In fact, every time he gets on the ball, it is a nervy moment—to say the least—in the eyes of supporters. If Chelsea is going to play out from the back, Mendy should not make that first pass. Rather, his only option should be to boot it up the pitch, as far away from his own penalty area as possible.

Mendy is a fantastic keeper and he should keep his place as the No. 1. His abilities, contribution and quality are not the subject of question here. Mendy is the Blues’ top choice between the sticks, but these mistakes cannot happen anymore. Clearly, after that horrendous goal, Chelsea lost all confidence in itself and there was no realistic way back. These are basic errors that should not be happening in SW6. Mendy needs to either heavily improve his footwork, or not retain the ball at his feet often. But, if this happens again, the bench may be his future for a short time.

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What are some of the lessons you learnt in the match? Let us know your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter!