A notable step forward against a true Premier League big gun - Leeds United Talking Points

A RARE sight indeed at Elland Road this weekend.

By Lee Sobot
Sunday, 14th March 2021, 4:47 pm

A rare sight whether Leeds United play home or away.

Yet just Leeds United’s third draw of the season felt like a significant step forward against one of the division’s true big guns.

The extent to which the ‘big guns’ tag extends to in this season’s Premier League is of course subjective and open to debate.

CLEAN SHEET: Leeds United goalkeeper Illan Meslier gathers the ball under pressure from Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger in Saturday's goalless draw at Elland Road. Photo by Bruce Rollinson.

But Leicester City would certainly be included these days meaning Leeds already had one victory over an established highflyer already in the bag ahead of Saturday’s clash against Chelsea at Elland Road.

Wins against the top sides, though, have by and large been in short supply as United have only beaten Leicester, Everton and Aston Villa of the teams in the division’s top half.

This, also, did not look like a great time to be playing one of the top half’s best – Chelsea – who are clearly rejuvenated under new boss Thomas Tuchel.

Chelsea arrived in West Yorkshire sat fourth in the table, on a 12-game unbeaten run and having conceded just once in the last seven games.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Leeds were unable to breach the Blues defence which has now gone 507 minutes without conceding a goal.

But possibly the most pleasing aspect of United’s display against the Blues was that Tuchel’s side were unable to break through themselves, especially given the Whites absentees.

United’s injury problems had looked to have been easing of late but captain Liam Cooper was a hugely surprising omission from the match-day squad at the weekend.

Whites head coach Marcelo Bielsa then revealed afterwards that Cooper was ill, meaning that two of United’s best centre-backs in Cooper and Robin Koch were effectively out.

Koch, of course, took his place on the Whites bench against Chelsea as the German international featured in a match-day squad for the first time since aggravating a knee issue in the 3-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge back in December.

Koch’s return is a huge boost but Bielsa revealed that the defender would likely have an outing for United’s under-23s against Newcastle United on Monday as the next step in his recovery.

With Cooper also ill, it meant an amazing 13th different partnership of the season at centre-back as Diego Llorente partnered the fit again Pascal Struijk at the heart of the defence. Hardly ideal.

Yet a Chelsea side chock full of attacking talent were unable to make any breakthrough and whilst the Blues might have nicked a winner on another day, so too might Leeds.

The stats all point towards Tuchel’s side being on top with the Blues having 15 attempts at goal compared to United’s seven. Eight of Chelsea’s were on target with Leeds managing just half of that.

Realistically, if Kai Havertz would have had his shooting boots on, the Blues probably would have won.

All four of his attempts were on target but all produced fairly routine saves from Illan Meslier.

But Raphinha really should have put Leeds ahead from close range in the second half whilst only a tremendous save from Edouard Mendy managed to keep out a lovely deft curled effort from Tyler Roberts.

It should also be remembered that Leeds had to play 55 minutes of the game without their top scorer after Patrick Bamford was forced off injured.

Chelsea were also without England international striker Tammy Abraham and Brazilian centre-back Thiago Silva but few squads in the Premier League have the same depth as the Blues and Leeds had more absentees in the shape of Pablo Hernandez, Adam Forshaw, Koch – to a degree – and then Bamford.

Taking on Chelsea took a huge effort as the Blues had 62.3 per cent of possession and attempted 588 passes compared to United’s 330.

A total of 493 of Chelsea’s passes were successful whilst 241 found their man for Leeds who even stood firm at five corners against a definite big gun.

What followed wasn’t a victory against one, but in many ways was just as pleasing.

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Thank you Laura Collins