Chelsea attacking woes continue despite Enzo Fernandez debut
LONDON — Chelsea were held to a 0-0 draw at home to Fulham on Friday as Graham Potter’s side again lacked a clinical touch in front of goal.
Kai Havertz missed a trio of chances in the first half as Chelsea were frustrated by a resolute, counterattacking Fulham side. Noni Madueke went close late on, when he showed skill in rounding goalkeeper Bernd Leno only for Tim Ream to block his shot on the line. A brief show of late pressure from the home side did not prove enough to break the deadlock.
The result means Potter’s side remain ninth in the table as they failed to leapfrog Fulham, who remain two points ahead of local rivals Chelsea in sixth.
JUMP TO: Best/worst performers | Highlights and notable moments | Postmatch quotes | Key stats | Upcoming fixtures
1. Plenty of new faces, but same result for Chelsea
A win on Friday would have cut the gap between Chelsea and fourth-place Man United to seven points. Instead, they drew 0-0 and showed that they’re not worth discussing as contenders for Champions League football next season. The fact the game went goalless — their third in their past six Premier League games — summed up their season so far.
Chelsea fans did get a first glimpse at Enzo Fernandez, the new Premier League record signee who arrived in the final minutes of Tuesday’s transfer deadline day. He wasn’t the only new face, either: fellow January arrivals, defenders Benoit Badiashile and Mykhailo Mudryk, were in the starting XI, while winger Noni Madueke and young forward David Datro Fofana came off the bench. Left out were new boys Malo Gusto and Andrey Santos, with Joao Felix absent due to a red card on his debut.
However, their immediate impact wasn’t enough to fix their issues. Fernandez looked commanding in holding midfield, while Badiashile barely put a foot wrong at the back. They were the highlights. Mudryk, after a promising start in his debut against Liverpool, barely got a kick on Tuesday and was replaced at half-time for Madueke, who almost scored a winner when skipping around Bernd Leno in the 79th minute, only for Fulham and U.S. defender Tim Ream to scramble back and block a limp shot. Fofana did little after coming on late in the game.
Even as Chelsea adjust to their new, fresh look, the task ahead of them is daunting. Chelsea remain stuck in 10th place and with a busy, tricky month ahead: they face two London derbies this month, against West Ham (Feb. 11) and Tottenham (Feb. 22), as well as a Champions League round of 16 clash with Dortmund (Feb. 15).
Given the time this squad will need to find the same page, it could be a hard February with more steps back than forward.
2. Attacking woes continue to hamper Potter’s Blues
Kai Havertz has played various attacking roles since joining Chelsea in September 2020. He has made appearances in the “hole” behind the striker, and slightly wider as an inside-forward. More recently, Chelsea have turned to him as the hopeful cure for their goal-scoring woes in a central striker position. It hasn’t worked so far, and that’s never been more apparent than Friday night.
The Germany international had plenty of chances to add to his underwhelming six goals in all competitions this season, but missed each one. He failed to convert a diving shot at the back post early on, and then missed again moments later with a turn and volley. His best chance came on the stroke of half-time when he went one-on-one with Fulham goalkeeper Leno, only to see his chipped effort ding off the post.
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Despite spending over £500m since Todd Boehly his ownership group took control of the club, Chelsea are still bereft of a dependable starting striker. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang‘s career at Stamford Bridge looks increasingly over after he was omitted from their squad for the Champions League knockout stages. That leaves January signing Fofana, though his 15-minute cameo from the bench didn’t offer much early confidence.
Chelsea must find a solution quickly or face a painful remainder of the season. Potter’s side have scored just three goals in their last seven games in all competitions. They also have netted the fewest goals (22) in the Premier League top 10, and it’s not close.
3. Fulham continue their impressive charge
Fulham fans were in full voice on Friday as they chanted, “There’s only one club in west London!” For so long, it wasn’t them, but this season they have enjoyed the unlikely result of sitting far above local rivals Chelsea.
Last month, they beat Chelsea 2-1 at Craven Cottage in what was their first Premier League victory over the Blues since March 2006. On Friday, they had the chance to complete the league double over Chelsea for the first time in their history and while it ended with honours even, it did show why Fulham are enjoying such success. It’s no fluke: Marco Silva’s side limited Chelsea to just two shots on target and looked to striker Aleksandar Mitrovic at the other end to use his physical style to snatch a goal on the counterattack.
Fulham will be looking to qualify for European football next season, and for the first time since a side led by Clint Dempsey and Bobby Zamora enjoyed a Cinderella run to the Europa League final in 2010. Fulham fans are wrong — for a start, there are three Premier League sides in west London — but Fulham remain on top of the pack.
Best and worst performers
Enzo Fernandez, MF, Chelsea: He looked confident and commanding in his debut and even nearly scored from outside the box, which would have provided a much-needed debut treat.
Conor Gallagher, MF, Chelsea: Showed real threat through the middle, although he couldn’t take advance and be the difference in a gritty performance.
Bernd Leno, GK, Fulham: Made some impressive stops, including a confident catch from a deep Raheem Sterling cross near the end that could have sent the game in a different direction.
Mason Mount, MF, Chelsea: Has had an underwhelming season by his own standards and continued in the same vein against Fulham.
Joao Palhinha, MF, Fulham: Sometimes rash in the middle of the pitch and looked the weak link in an otherwise sturdy Fulham performance.
Kai Havertz, FW, Chelsea: Had enough chances to strike a winner but could not provide a clinical touch.
Highlights and notable moments
There were few highlights to really point to, so we’ll look at two points involving Tim Ream. The first, his game-saving block to deny Madueke …
TIM REAM! 🇺🇸
📺: @USA_Network #MyPLMorning | #CHEFUL pic.twitter.com/kxoNL0d4JT
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) February 3, 2023
… and next is his bold, confident postmatch interview. Hard to argue with his attitude considering how well he and Fulham are playing!
🗣️ “We can be very proud of coming away from here with a point and maybe disappointed not to have more.”
Tim Ream discusses Fulham’s performance after a goalless draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. ⚖ pic.twitter.com/XfQy2ImxN4
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) February 3, 2023
After the match: What the players/managers said
“It was a big night. We performed well with and without the ball. We deserved a bit more maybe but a point is good. It’s hard to come here and play against Chelsea. They have a very good team. — Fulham FW Willian to Sky Sports
“Obviously, we’re disappointed we didn’t win the game. There were positives to take.” — Chelsea debutant Noni Madueke to Sky Sports
“Disappointed because we didn’t win, of course. I think we could all sense the excitement and the positivity. There was definitely that in the team. You have to credit Fulham, they are a defensively well-organised unit. We did quite well at times and at times you could see the lack of connection with a team that has a few guys coming back from injury or being integrated into the team. In football teams you sometimes need that connection and understanding to sharpen up the decisions. We just need to gel and improve the team.” — Chelsea boss Graham Potter, speaking to Sky Sports
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)
– Chelsea has one win in its past six Premier League games (one win, three draws, two defeats). This was also the team’s third scoreless match in that span.
– Chelsea has scored on just 4.2% of its shots during that span (fifth-lowest rate in the Premier League over that span, with three goals on 72 shots). That rate is even more shocking when you consider no Premier League club has taken a higher percentage of their shots inside the box over that span (76.4%).
Chelsea: You can bet Graham Potter & Co. will be using this week to train and for his new players to get to know each other before they travel to West Ham for a London derby on Feb. 11, which sets the table nicely for their UEFA Champions League last-16, first-leg clash with Borussia Dortmund on Feb. 15.
Fulham: Mauro Silva’s side face two games in the next week, with an FA Cup fourth round replay at Sunderland (Feb. 8, ESPN+) before hosting Nottingham Forest in a big Premier League clash on Feb. 11.