Things started a bit inauspiciously for Chelsea on Saturday night, even as the novelty of (1600 or so) fans in attendance made it sound like we had a (greatly missed) full house once again, with former Chelsea prospect Patrick Bamford opening the scoring inside of five minutes for Leeds (but of course he scored), and then Timo Werner contriving to miss not once, but twice from point blank range within the first ten minutes (and probably clearing Giroud’s header off the line in the process).
Even after Chelsea equalized around the half-hour mark, the good news was accompanied by Hakim Ziyech picking up a hamstring injury.
But none of that mattered in the end, as the Blues put an absolute clinic of individual and team excellence, keeping things (mostly) organized at the back, compact in midfield, and creating several glorious opportunities at the other end. It may have taken a set piece goal to grab the lead and a late counter to seal the points, but Chelsea certainly did nothing to dispel our still too-early title credentials. (Chelsea’s xG of 4.1-4.7, depending on who’s counting, was the highest recorded this season in the Premier League, for whatever that’s worth.)
“I loved the game. What an exciting game for the fans to come back to! Leeds are never going to let you have comfortable possession, but we created so many good chances against them: it could’ve been four, five, six on a different day.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Chelsea TV
Sixteen unbeaten in all competitions and top of the league at least for tonight, how far this team will actually go will depend entirely on just how consistently we can keep plugging away, and how consistently we can get enough players to step up their performances at the same time — Lampard picked out, first and foremost, the trio of Mount, Kanté, and Thiago Silva this time, but others were nearly or even just as good — and how consistently we can keep making the right decisions on and off the pitch.
The theme of consistency has taken over most of Lampard’s press conferences as of late, and tonight’s post-match talk was no different.
“You can see how excited [the fans were] at the end that we are top of the league. My job and our job is to know that it’s a long season and the next question is how consistent can we be with this form, how much we can improve, because I believe there is a lot more we can do and there will be a lot of challenges ahead.
“Enjoy the evening. I will have that small glass of wine, maybe a large one, but at the same time we need to make sure we stay grounded. But there were a lot of good things. To play against Leeds in the form they are in and the type of team they are and dominate in terms of chances was a real great performance from us.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Football.London
Chelsea have an easy week ahead, for once, with a dead rubber home game midweek against Krasnodar. Then it’s back to work and back to the grind, with back-to-back away games against Everton and Wolves before entering a most busy holiday period, which includes games against West Ham (home), Arsenal (away), Aston Villa (home), and Manchester City (home) in a span of just about a dozen days. Any title credentials we may be putting together now could be strongly reinforced or completely broken in the next month.
Time to believe we can fly.