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By Marcus Otty.

Chelsea 4-1 Sheffield United

In line with the Presidential election across the pond, it is the blue who have left victorious after an early scare from the reds.

Morale was high for Chelsea, coming into the game off an impressive mid-week win against Stade Rennes, where Chelsea fans got a glimpse of the abilities of Moroccan winger Hakim Ziyech. On Saturday they saw his whole repertoire.

Ziyech stole the show with his effortless playmaking. Not too dissimilar to former Blues man Arjen Robben, defenders know what he is going to do, but stopping it, on the other hand, is another thing. Spraying inch-perfect passes, and skipping past flailing legs, this signing may prove to be one of Frank Lampard’s best, and at £30 million Chelsea fans will feel they have got a steal in him.

Sheffield United have had a horrible start to the season. They are yet to record a Premier League win; but, Chris Wilder has organised a neat outfit, with free-flowing football, and after their impressive campaign last season, nothing should be taken for granted against The Blades.

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It felt like the same-old Chelsea when David McGoldrick’s flick nestled past the extended foot of Edouard Mendy, as his clean sheet run came crashing down. Surely Chelsea were not going to squander a chance to get into the top four by being beaten at home to the team with no wins? However, it would not have been unimaginable as consistency is the one thing Lampard and his side crave more than anything.

However, on Saturday Chelsea have never looked stronger defensively, without conceding for over eight hours of game-time. Lampard said before the game that individuals coming into the team have performed very well, with high levels of concentration and focus.

Players are also playing in their desired positions. Mason Mount, Lampard’s little favourite, has finally been deployed in a role similar to one Lampard used to play, an honest number eight. Mount’s extreme tenacity and work ethic suit him perfectly as a box to box midfielder, but there have been times he’s been dumped out on the wing with no real idea.

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Another player who seemed to finally look at home was N’Golo Kante. The World Cup winner has been playing a more attacking role in midfield for the past two seasons, under Maurizio Sarri and Lampard. This has split the nation on what his best position is. Whether the holding role is his best position or not, he has played exceptionally in recent games and has looked like the Kante who won Leicester City the league.

It took 14 minutes for Ziyech to display one of his team-splitting passes, finding Mateo Kovacic, who neatly pulled it back for Tammy Abraham, who still had a lot to do as he volleyed the ball into the far corner. At this point, you fancied Chelsea to take the game by the scruff of the neck and bully The Blades into submission.

The ringleader of this bullying was Ziyech. Finding Ben Chilwell at the back post 11 minutes later with another cross-field ball, this time from a training ground corner routine. Chelsea went into the break with the goal advantage, and the look of a side who were hungry for even more.

There was not much to shout about from Wilder’s men after taking the lead. Keeper Aaron Ramsdale will feel he could’ve done better for both goals, especially the second. Wilder even said after the game that he felt both first-half goals were avoidable. The Blades looked lethargic; an adjective you would not have expected to be associated with them 12 months ago.

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Once Chelsea took the lead, it became clear that they were not going to lose this lead. This game management could be down to 36-year-old Thiago Silva coming into the fold, who marshalled the Chelsea backline with military precision.

He was rewarded for his defensive acumen with a goal 15 minutes from full-time. Unsurprisingly it was Ziyech who delivered another devilish cross. John Egan, Edna Stevens and Chris Basham will be having sleepless nights for weeks after the hell Ziyech’s passing put them through.

The Blades showed some desire to get back into the game, however, Chelsea’s monstrous 71% possession epitomised their dominance over the visitors. Wilder put it quite simply after the game:

“World-class players don’t give the ball away cheaply. That’s why they get paid world class wages.”

The game was rounded off in particularly frustrating circumstance for Sheffield United, as Max Lowe’s tenacious work led to him to accidentally slip Timo Werner through on goal, and after squandering a one-on-one minutes before, he smashed this second chance past a helpless Ramsdale. Jamie Carragher said in a commentary the finish was akin to Premier League legend Alan Shearer, a compliment Werner will take all day.

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This win was particularly sweet for Lampard, who has not beaten Wilder’s men since their promotion back to the top level of English football and hopefully has shirked the shackles of a potential ‘bogey team’ during his tenure at the helm.

With a win at home against bottom of the league, there’s an argument for Chelsea fans not to get too excited, but why not? It’s a sign of bigger things to come. The story from this game was Lampard asserting himself as a serious title contender. Last year it was ‘fair play Frank, doing what he can with the youngsters’. Now he has gone and spent £300 million on world-class players, so the pressure is on.

After some surprising results of recent weeks, this year’s title is up for grabs. If Chelsea can hit the ground running with some consistent results and minimal injuries, they have a serious chance at bringing the title to Stamford Bridge.

For Sheffield United, it is the end of a horrible set of fixtures. They will use the international break as a well needed period to regroup and attempt to climb up the table.

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April 2024