What Wesley Fofana did amid Chelsea boos as bold Graham Potter plan dramatically backfires
Fofana shows his class
It was inevitable that once the full-time whistle was blown at Stamford Bridge, the players on the pitch and those in the dugout would be met by a chorus of boos from the Chelsea faithful. Supporters rallied at the start of the second period and did their bit to try to energise Chelsea’s performance.
It worked to an extent too as the Blues carried far more of a threat after the interval and should have found the back of the net at least once. Another defeat was never going to be accepted and after brief handshakes were exchanged with Southampton players, a handful of those in blue started to head toward the tunnel.
It was at that point Wesley Fofana , who played his first minutes since October, shouted across to his teammates and ensured they applauded the supporters in the Matthew Harding Stand.
It was a classy moment from the French defender, who performed well during his 45-minute cameo in a variety of roles. Chelsea fans will hope to see more of the 22-year-old in the games ahead.
Bold Potter plan backfires
It was on Friday evening that news emerged – initially via social media – that several players would not be included in the Chelsea squad to face Southampton. Reece James would be rested and Thiago Silva, who has played more minutes than any senior player this season, would also sit out the game.
There would be no Hakim Ziyech or Marc Cucurella either. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang , meanwhile, would also not be involved despite sitting out the midweek Champions League defeat against Borussia Dortmund after being unregistered from Chelsea’s A list.
“We don’t have any injuries, we are just using this as a chance to rest a few players who have a little bit of fatigue,” Potter told Chelsea’s in-house media prior to kick-off. “It’s the circumstances we find ourselves in and we just have to be careful with those players.”
The decision was bold on Potter’s part – and would only be vindicated by Chelsea winning the game against the Saints, who are bottom of the table. That Chelsea didn’t left Potter with little protection post-match.
“It was a below-par performance,” he admitted in his press conference. “Returning from the Champions League and we had to make some changes, so you lose a bit of fluidity and cohesion. Southampton set up with a plan, an idea. They mixed the game well with a big target man but our performance wasn’t what we wanted in the first half and I take as much responsibility as anybody in that.
“I thought the response second half was good and I thought we deserved a goal, we created enough chances to score. But when you don’t, then obviously it’s difficult to win matches.”
The defeat leaves the Blues tenth in the Premier League table and with just one win in their previous ten matches. It is not good enough and pressure will continue to mount on Potter, who is understood to retain the support of the Chelsea ownership despite recent results.
The goalscoring issue
It’s remarkable how many different ways Chelsea are unable to score a goal. In midweek against Borussia Dortmund, it was Joao Felix who spurned two excellent opportunities and Kalidou Koulibaly who had an effort scrambled off the line. Yesterday at Stamford Bridge, it was Raheem Sterling who was twice denied by fine defensive work.
The England international was introduced at the interval for David Datro Fofana , who was handed his full debut by Potter. The 20-year-old was an unpredictable presence in the frontline and caught the eye with a couple of bursts forward.
Whether his inclusion impacted the overall team structure is a point of debate, however. That Aubameyang was absent once more was an inevitable talking point.
Potter has repeatedly stated the 33-year-old has done nothing wrong, but the forward was omitted from the Champions League group and would have been granted a mid-season loan to LAFC had he agreed to a deal.
Aubameyang does not carry the same threat as in his prime, but he does have 68 Premier League goals to his name and many more in the Bundesliga. His penalty-box pedigree is not in doubt and Chelsea are in desperate need of someone to finish the array of chances they create.
When asked after the game what Aubameyang could do to earn a spot in the squad, Potter replied:
“I would say keep doing what he’s doing. We made the decision to give David the opportunity and we still had Kai [Havertz] and Raheem coming on and I think they impacted the game well. But obviously, when you don’t score and have created chances, I understand the question.”