Chelsea owners facing two big questions as Graham Potter fights for future

Chelsea owners facing two big questions as Graham Potter fights for future

Graham Potter cannot catch a break, and on Thursday night was left bemoaning “everything that can go wrong is going wrong”, after Chelsea’s first defeat by Fulham since 2006.

The club’s worst run of League form since 1996 has left Chelsea 10th in the Premier League, 10 points off fourth-placed Manchester United, who have a game in hand, and facing a trophyless season, after being knocked out of both domestic cups.

The defeat left two big questions for the Blues’ new owners: how much longer can this continue and is Potter really the right man for this job? On Thursday, the under-siege boss could only watch on helplessly, as new signing Joao Felix was sent off on his debut for a reckless tackle just short of the hour-mark, with the score at 1-1.

A quarter of an hour later, Carlos Vinicius’s header claimed the spoils for Fulham. The Craven Cottage stands were bouncing after a win that lifted Fulham into sixth place after their fourth straight League win.

For Chelsea, the boos that rang out from the away end at the final whistle — less than half of the squad would acknowledge the Blues’ support – were a clear indicator of the mood among a fanbase not accustomed to such pain in recent times. The calls to sack Potter continue and, although the owners publicly continue to support his leadership, the rancour from the stands gets louder with each defeat.

Potter made a bold decision to give Felix his debut, despite him arriving in the country just a day before the match and completing just one training session. The 23-year-old looked likely to reward his manager with a stylish performance. After just eight minutes of watching his tricks, flicks and shots on goal, Chelsea fans began singing about their loan signing from Atletico Madrid.

It breathed life into Chelsea, even though former Blues winger Willian scored a deflected goal midway through the first half.

The Blues equalised early in the second half through a scrappy Kalidou Koulibaly goal, with Felix threatening to be the match-winner. But, with the Blues pushing to win the match, their star man saw red for a two-footed tackle on Kenny Tete. Felix’s moment of madness swung momentum back the Cottagers’ way and Vinicius’s 73rd-minute header settled the derby.

Dejected: Chelsea are in the midst of their worst run of Premier League form since 1996 (Getty Images)
Dejected: Chelsea are in the midst of their worst run of Premier League form since 1996 (Getty Images)

Chelsea’s new signing will be suspended for three matches, while to make matters worse their injury crisis worsened when Denis Zakaria came off with a quad problem in the second half, making it 12 players now unavailable at the Bridge.

Chelsea are weighing up further attacking signings, with Borussia Monchengladbach forward Marcus Thuram and PSV winger Noni Madueke being discussed.

After spending £300million on transfers, the business looks more desperate by the day. Chelsea have nothing to show for their outlay and, despite Thursday night’s misfortune, will need to work a way out of their crisis.

This level of “pain” and “suffering” — as Potter put it after the match — was not in the plan of the new Boehly-Clearlake owners when they took over. As one club in west London is in crisis, however, another celebrates its most joyful top-flight season in recent memory. Fulham boss Marco Silva saluted match-winner Vinicius, who joined the club from Benfica for £5m last summer.

After spending £300million on transfers already, Chelsea’s business looks more desperate by the day

“It was his best display,” Silva said. “The confidence he had was important. He scored the winner in a special match. It is tough to be in the shadow of a top striker like (Aleksandar) Mitrovic.”

Fulham showed they are about much more than top scorer Mitrovic, who missed the game through suspension, as their new boys played starring roles. Andreas Pereira supplied the winner, Joao Palhinha competed well in midfield and goalkeeper Bernd Leno handled his workload competently. The same compliments cannot be paid to Chelsea’s recent additions.