Sheffield United – Chelsea: Thomas Tuchel made it three wins from four Premier League games unbeaten since being named Blues boss with a 2-1 victory at Bramall Lane on Sunday.
[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]
Mason Mount and Jorginho got the goals for Chelsea, who suddenly sit 5th in the Premier League table following their mini-resurrection in this post-Frank Lampard era. The Blues trail Liverpool by a single point in the race for top-four and UEFA Champions League qualification.
Sheffield United, on the other hand, remain rooted to the bottom of the table with 11 points from 23 games.
3 things we learned: Sheffield United – Chelsea
1. Tough to score goals without creating chances: For all the money Chelsea spent on young attacking talent in the summer, the Blues appear completely devoid of a single attacking idea that’s not “get the ball wide and cross it.” Mason Mount and Mateo Kovacic progress the ball quite well, but they’re hardly visionaries in the final third. Ben Chilwell and Reece James offer fantastic width on either side, but their only contribution to the attack is the aforementioned (and loathed) cross and hope. When teams sit deep and defend, like Sheffield United did on Sunday, Chelsea will always struggle.
2. Chelsea (mostly) confident, assured in defense under Tuchel: Given the lack of in-form (and healthy) attacking options at his disposal, Tuchel’s decision to go with three center backs not only makes tactical sense but has also allowed Chelsea to re-establish a strong defensive shape which lends itself well to gobbling up possession. With Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger manning the backline from right to left, Chelsea can (and usually do) comfortably pass their way out of every situation, while quickly sweeping up forays into the final third. And then, of course, there’s the own goal scored by Rudiger — likely more an issue of miscommunication than a lack of quality.
3. Little luck for relegation-bound Blades: Even when something truly fortuitous happens for them, the other shoe drops with incredible expediency. To stave off relegation from the Premier League, you must either demonstrate you’re a side that’s “too talented to go down,” or make the most of every opportunity that comes your way over the course of 38 games. Simply put, they have done neither this season.
Sheffield United thought they had won a penalty in the 12th minute, when captain Chris Basham was hacked down after bringing the ball down with his chest. Referee Kevin Friend pointed to the spot, but a quick video review revealed Basham was offside by half the width of his body as the ball was played back into the box.
Sheffield United held the Blues to just two shots in the opening half-hour despite holding barely 25 percent of possession in the same period. They did so by sitting incredibly deep and daring Chelsea, with their lack of an incisive playmaker, to break them down. For most of the first half, they simply could not.
Alas, Chelsea survived the early frustrations and broke through with a goal in the 43rd minute. Timo Werner got down the left side of the Blades’ penalty area and cut a left-footed cross back toward the penalty spot, where Mason Mount made a darting run and applied a fine, left-footed finish into Aaron Ramsdale’s bottom-left-hand corner.
[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]
Rudiger handed Sheffield United a (very brief) lifeline in the 55th minute, when he comically passed the ball around Edouard Mendy as the goalkeeper went one way and Rudiger anticipated him going the other.
The 1-1 scoreline lasted all of three minutes, though, as Ramsdale clattered into Werner as he raced into the penalty area and looked to round the goalkeeper. Jorginho stepped up to the penalty spot and converted to make it 2-1.