Joao Felix’s Chelsea debut vs Fulham: Eden Hazard similarity, Kai Havertz link, stupid red card
It may have surprised a few at 7 o’clock on Thursday evening when Chelsea confirmed their starting line-up for their Premier League clash with Fulham and Joao Felix was on there. Just over 30 hours after the club announced the loan signing of the 23-year-old attacker, Graham Potter threw him straight into the team for the west London derby. Felix started alongside Kai Havertz in what looked like a 3-5-2 formation for the visitors at Craven Cottage.
Chelsea started the game on top and it looked as if the players had been given a much-needed boost by the arrival of Felix just over 30 hours before. The Portugal international has already got his own song, that was being sang loudly from the away end.
Just a couple of minutes in, Felix got the ball on the right-hand side and took on Tim Ream, nutmegging him in the process before finding Havertz , whose shot was blocked. It was so refreshing to see a Chelsea attacker whose sole intention was to run at the opponent. The directness is a rarity with the Blues right now. The opening 10 minutes were superb to watch.
Felix looked so energetic, quick on the ball and while running off it, and was clearly full of confidence. Social media was full of Felix tweets and they were all positive. The way he dribbles with the ball attracts the opposition to foul him. In that regard, he plays similarly to Eden Hazard ; planting his body in front of the opponent so they have no choice but to bring him down.
He drew two yellow cards in the opening 14 minutes at Craven Cottage – just to show Chelsea supporters, those who didn’t know, how he played. He then faded a bit after that, to be expected, after such a superb opening 15 minutes. Willian then scored for the hosts and Chelsea’s attacking play suffered as a result. The reaction wasn’t there and it of course had an impact on Felix.
Despite this, the link-up play between Chelsea’s front two – Havertz and Felix – was very encouraging. It looked like they had been playing with each other for a while. Many questioned whether they would be able to play alongside each other but there were definitely strong signs suggesting they will. His running in behind was impressive.
He was continuously offering his teammates an option behind the Fulham defence but the creativity – once again – from the Chelsea midfielders was lacking. Felix looked fresh and unaffected by Chelsea’s system – like some of their attacking players have looked throughout this season. Almost immediately after the break, Kalidou Koulibaly levelled the match and Chelsea regained the ascendancy. Felix started the half well; picking up the ball deep and producing a couple of really nice passes.
He continued to shoot on sight and saw a powerful effort from the edge of the box saved by Bernd Leno on 50 minutes. The Portuguese international’s confidence and fearlessness should have inspired those around him in blue. However, just moments later; a moment of pure madness. Felix lunged into a tackle and caught Fulham’s Kenny Tete with a high challenge.
He was rightly shown a straight red card by referee David Coote. It was such a shame. Not only did it leave Chelsea with a really difficult challenge with 10 men, it spoiled what was a really encouraging debut from Felix. He will now be suspended for the next three matches, with the next game he’s available for expected to be the Premier League clash with West Ham United next month. Felix, in his 58-minute debut, provided everything Chelsea have been missing (bar a goal).
His first match for the Blues, though, will unfortunately be overshadowed by a moment of madness in the second-half and something he desperately needs to eradicate from his game. Chelsea fans will be counting down the days until they can next see Felix on the field after what was an exciting debut up until the silly challenge.
Potter will be missing his new signing, who was brought in to try and change Chelsea’s fortunes in offensive areas, for games against Crystal Palace, Liverpool and Fulham in the next few weeks.