Chelsea's Season Depends On Cohesion After Disjointed Draw With Fulham

Soporific stuff from the Stamford Bridge strangers
21:53, 03 Feb 2023

Fresh from a week in which they broke the British transfer record on Enzo Fernandez, their eighty signing of the January window, Chelsea showed all the hallmarks of a hangover. Their disjointed 0-0 draw with Fulham saw them demonstrate all the cohesion of a squad where a third of the players had never met a month ago. Graham Potter’s side had chances to win, but so did Marco Silva’s. The west London rivals contested a game that never spilled over into local derby enmity, nor out-and-out quality.

The focus was always likely to fall on Chelsea and their band of merry new arrivals, but it was actually Fulham who looked more threatening early. Antonee Robinson raced down the flank, leaving Reece James in his wake on the right back’s first start of 2023. His cross was good, but the offside flag blunted its impact.


The ever-dangerous Joao Palhinha was a constant thorn in Chelsea’s side. A thunderous interception and pitch-perfect pass handed Andreas Pereira a chance from distance. His well-struck shot drew a solid save from Kepa. 

Chelsea’s first big chance of the game arrived when British record signing Enzo Fernandez found Mason Mount in the left channel with a clever pass. The England international’s cross got a nick off Tim Ream which made Kai Havertz’s eventual ballooned finish look worse than it was. The forward got a measure of revenge when Ream misjudged the bounce of a long ball a minute later, though Havertz dragged the resulting shot wide.

Both teams continued to knock on the door as the first half drew to a close. First, Fulham’s Kenny Tete whipped a wicked cross towards ex-Blue Willian, whose header across goal came to nothing. Then at the other end, an amazing ball from the man who nearly moved to Paris Saint-Germain, Hakim Ziyech, set up Havertz. The Germany intertional’s looped shot beat countryman Bernd Leno all ends up, but ricocheted off the woodwork to safety.

Chelsea fans would get a glimpse of another new signing as the second half dawned. Mudryk made way for Noni Mudueke, the England under-21 winger signed from PSV Eindhoven. James nearly founded him with a searching cross early in the half. It was a great ball but Tete was alive to the danger.

Bobby Decordova-Reid sent one a little too close to Kepa before the keeper had a much more uncomfortable shot to contend with. There aren’t many types of goal that Aleksandar Mitrovic hasn’t scored but an audacious lob from the halfway line is one of them. He came close with it tonight at Stamford Bridge though. Kepa was a few feet off his line and was nearly caught out. Mitrovic couldn’t have hit it much better but Kepa’s blushes were spared when he got back in the nick of time.

Fernandez nearly made the first payment on his massive fee when he curled a shot just wide. The gasp inside Stamford Bridge was the loudest noise heard so far tonight. There’s a tangible will to see the new man succeed, particular under the weight of that price tag. 

The record signing was nearly outdone by the academy kid when Conor Gallagher’s powerful drive was deflected just wide. Moments later, another new signing went close. David Datro Fofana breezed past Leno before having his shot cleared off the line by Ream. 

The last time Chelsea went on a shopping spree for a bevy of world class talent, they won the Champions League. But manager Graham Potter should not the fact that silverware did not arrive until a managerial change was made. Whether a Thomas Tuchel figure is required in this case or not, what is clear is the quality in that Chelsea dressing room. There will be more nights like this, where the expensively-assembled superstars flatter to deceive. But if they gel, then the whole Premier League will need to watch their backs.

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