Leeds United 0 Chelsea 0

Last updated : 12 August 2021 By Richard Jolly at Elland Road

Thomas Tuchel was hired more for his winning habit than his drawing tendency but, a dozen games into his reign, the German has already overseen stalemates in January, February and March.

The term feels inappropriate in this case, however: goalless draws are rarely this vibrant. If Tuchel’s preference for control came up against Marcelo Bielsa’s chaos theory, the scoreline would suggest the Chelsea manager imposed his style of play. The drama told another tale.

He needed the woodwork to preserve his unbeaten record – indeed Leeds hit the frames of both goals – while each goalkeeper made fine saves and a total of 22 shots was evidence of attacking intent.

Tuchel conducted a running argument with Leeds’s voluble director of football, Victor Orta, and continued his experiments with his new charges.

But questions remain about the composition of his forward line. “We created enough chances, enough shots and enough touches in the box to score one or two goals,” Tuchel said, but they drew a blank against a side who were without their ill captain, Liam Cooper, were using their 13th centre-back partnership of the season and, as Bielsa pointed out, have one of the division’s worst defensive records.

Chelsea have scored only 13 times in Tuchel’s 12 unbeaten matches and there can be an element of trial and error in his research. He crowbarred four players who may be No 10s by preference into his starting XI, but removed three of them, as it did not prove a potent formula.

One of them, Christian Pulisic, became the latest unlikely wing-back as he started a league game under Tuchel for the first time since their Dortmund days. Yet if an unexpected tactic almost reaped an early reward when Kai Havertz nearly converted the American’s cross, Tuchel’s dissatisfaction with Pulisic was apparent in his efforts to micromanage him long before he substituted him.

Tuchel was quick to argue that Havertz was not masquerading as a front man. “I don’t think he is a false 9, he is pretty much a No 9 because he likes to be high,” his manager said. Yet if Havertz is a bona fide centre-forward he will be judged more on the basis of his goal return and a first league strike since October eluded him.

Illan Meslier tipped over a rising, rasping shot after Havertz turned into space. “Unfortunately he could not finish like he does in training or his talent allows him to finish because we had enough chances for him to be the decisive guy,” said Tuchel, in an inadvertently damning comment. Havertz nevertheless offered more hints of encouragement than Hakim Ziyech, who looked the wrong man on the right.

And, not for the first time under Tuchel, some of Chelsea’s threat stemmed from their defenders. Ben Chilwell prodded a shot wide and Meslier parried a menacing effort from Antonio Rüdiger. Ultimately, though, the closest they came was courtesy of two of the Leeds rearguard. Even considering United’s capacity to entertain, there was something improbable about Luke Ayling’s attempted clearance, which cannoned into Diego Llorente and on to the bar.

Leeds completed a third consecutive game without scoring, but only just. Tyler Roberts’ long quest for a maiden Premier League goal continued, despite two near misses. He had a tap-in chalked off because Patrick Bamford, his supplier, had been offside and then bent a shot against the bar, with Édouard Mendy getting a slight and crucial touch.

Leeds lost Bamford, who limped off against his former employers. Rodrigo replaced him and, before being substituted himself, found Raphinha with a header. The Brazilian swivelled to shoot and Mendy made a wonderful save. Not for the first time, Mendy underlined that one of Chelsea’s cheaper signings of late is among their best. “Good goalkeeping,” said Tuchel.

When Mendy was wrong-footed as Llorente’s shot deflected off Reece James, it landed on the roof of the net, while the unmarked Rodrigo headed straight at the goalkeeper.

“If there had to be a winner it wouldn’t have been us,” Bielsa nevertheless insisted. “To play a game like we did today we have to make an enormous effort. We value a lot the point.” It takes Leeds to 36. They are closer to achieving their objectives for the season than Chelsea are.