It’s been almost nine months since Melanie Leupolz signed for Chelsea from Frauen-Bundesliga side Bayern Munich, and to say she has slotted in nicely would serve as a gross understatement to her impact upon the solidity of the Blues’ midfield.
Since joining Chelsea in March, the German international has not only won the newly reinstated Community Shield, but has played a significant part in Chelsea’s continued unbeaten domestic reign. The Blues currently lay third in the table, with five wins and two draws, a run only rivalled by league leaders, Manchester United, yet Chelsea still have a game in hand.
Although Chelsea’s fine form may have been set to continue, the arrival of Leupolz and Chelsea’s continued dominance is no coincidence. Emma Hayes’ side is brimming with talent and is one that is certainly capable of challenging for a Champions League title, yet it is a side that looks to cause just that little bit more damage with Leupolz on the pitch.
No stranger to the main stage, the 26-year-old is already an established victor. Leupolz has reached the semi-final of the Champions League, twice won the Frauen-Bundesliga, and has taken home a gold medal with Germany in the 2016 Olympics. Confidence will be a key aspect of Chelsea’s Champions League campaign, and with such practice in international and European fixtures, Leupolz’s experience, alongside that of fellow well-versed teammate, Pernille Harder, will no doubt calm any unease that may present itself.
Indeed, Leupolz brings with her leadership and a “winning German mentality”, as described by Hayes, acquired and developed during her captaincy at Bayern Munich. Her astute and informed decision-making moulds well with the cool head of Wales captain, Sophie Ingle, in stabilising the middle third.
Securing this stability in Chelsea’s core demonstrates her skill as a complete box-to-box midfielder. With an ability to drop back and dig into defensive duties, Leupolz leaves breathing space for Chelsea’s attacking outlets, Ji So-Yun, Fran Kirby and Erin Cuthbert. With Leupolz neatly tidying up, these creative assistants are able to remain higher up the field, and a Chelsea team in which Ji and Kirby are free to roam, is a Chelsea team that is dangerous.
Yet, Leupolz herself demonstrates a great capability in pressing high. Forcefully driving forward with possession, before releasing with precision on the outskirts of the final third, has served as a Chelsea special thus far. Her graft in gathering the ball from the back line with a dribbling finesse sees her gravitational runs pull others into gear. Pairing this with her adept passing accuracy, one very quickly finds that Chelsea take the upper hand.
With a stellar skillset that is cementing a cohesion within the Chelsea midfield, Leupolz has been one of their most important and instrumental signings of the year. As the Blues broaden their ambitions and set their sights beyond the domestic league, one may ponder the question; can Leupolz aid Chelsea to Champions League victory?