Chelsea beat Newcastle United 2-0 to go top of the Premier League on Saturday afternoon.
Frank Lampard’s side were on the front foot from early on and a cross to the far post forced Federico Fernandez into a clumsy own goal in the opening minutes.
Both teams had big chances after the break, but a succession of missed chances from Timo Werner, Allan Saint-Maximin and Joelinton left the match finely poised.
But Chelsea wrapped up the points when a counter-attack saw Werner feed Tammy Abraham to bury his team’s second in off the post. Sean Longstaff hit the crossbar from range and Werner put the ball in the net before being ruled offside.
Here are five things we learned from the game at St. James’ Park.
Tammy and Timo
The front pairing of choice in recent weeks, albeit not in a traditional two-man attack.
Tammy Abraham and Timo Werner both had big chances they missed, both made poor decisions at times and both are occasionally hit and miss in terms of first touch or technique…but there are undeniable signs, too, that this can be an enormously productive attacking duo.
The German set up his English team-mate for Chelsea’s second goal, but even before that they had linked nicely a number of times to open the defence and create chances.
Abraham’s selflessness and link-up play is good, Werner’s pace and driving runs from the channel and his dribbling cause problems all game and there are real signs of a good understanding between the two.
Newcastle defensiveness an issue
Sat on the back foot for much of the first half, the Magpies rarely caused much trouble for Chelsea and yet also didn’t defend particularly well.
They were still in the game until an hour or so had been played, but by fortune, not design.
We have seen this over and over from Steve Bruce’s side, trying to stay in games rather than attacking them from the off - which is bizarre because they have the players in the attacking third to worry teams.
When they did finally venture forward, they opened Chelsea up several times and should have scored at least once. Waiting until a goal or two behind to actually start trying to win the game isn’t ideal.
Mendy continues to thrive
While the Chelsea attack generates most of the headlines, the improvement at the back is undeniable.
Kurt Zouma has had an undeniable influence with his own improvement, but the addition of and ease with which Edouard Mendy has settled into the club has been the most vital.
A clean sheet here makes it seven in nine games for the ex-Rennes man, and while this wasn’t the busiest game he’ll have all season he still made a couple of decent saves and dealt exceptionally well with aerial balls, through passes and his footwork behind the defence.
Calm, composed, never worried and utterly in control - exactly what they wanted from him.
Rotation and depth
Chelsea named a very strong team, but it’s notable that in the first game back after internationals, there were a couple absent - Thiago Silva was a notable one - and a few on the bench who have regularly been in the side.
Even so, there were impressive showings of stamina from the likes of Mason Mount, a starter again after regular England involvement.
Perhaps most pleasingly for Lampard, he was able to bring off a few who are quickly clocking up the minutes, with Werner replaced by Callum Hudson-Odoi and the likes of Jorginho left unused entirely.
Managers have to keep coping with the huge run of games coming up and Lampard might well look for an opportunity to rotate somewhat more in the coming weeks.
Top of the table
The Blues headed into the game knowing a win would send them top of the table, albeit perhaps for a short period of time, and they never looked like falling short.
A dominant and controlled performance for the most part, it showed a real change of mentality compared to last season when they dropped points in games when they looked to have momentum building.
Frank Lampard won’t be getting too excited with a long way to go, but there’s a nice run of league games coming up…after Spurs next time out, that is.
Leeds, Everton, Wolves, West Ham and even Arsenal won’t hold too many fears for the Blues right now and if they are still at or around top spot approaching Christmas, the title talk really will start to crank up.
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