New signings lifting Chelsea as Graham Potter’s system takes shape to save season
Chelsea rediscovered their finishing touch away to Leicester with a 3-1 victory, and the club’s new signings now looking ready to make their impact.
Ben Chilwell, Kai Havertz and Mateo Kovacic were the goalscorers with three stunning efforts, but the January signings all excelled too in important roles.
None more so than Enzo Fernandez who produced a marquee moment and an assist befitting of his price-tag. He was given too much time and space by the Foxes on the edge of the box, lifting a delicate pass over the defence and onto Havertz’s foot.
It was a moment of quality with little margin for error for either player, as the Germany international lifted the ball over Danny Ward to restore the lead.
Fernandez has struggled at times recently, with the World Cup winner at one point the most dribbled-past player in the league since his arrival at Stamford Bridge.
However, in a 3-4-3 system that protected Jorginho under Thomas Tuchel, he is now excelling alongside stand-in captain Mateo Kovacic and they controlling games for the Blues.
Mykahilo Mudryk started for the first time in almost a month and it took a while for him to get going. He began the match in a false nine position and initially struggled.
Graham Potter switched him back to a wide left position, his preferred role in the second half, and, with Leicester playing a high press, he offered a good outlet for his team, lasting almost the full 90 minutes. An offside flag denied Mudryk a goal, which he embarrassingly celebrated for a good 30 seconds before realising it was ruled out.
Yet he showed character moments later to get his first assist for Chelsea, heading Havertz’s cross down for Kovacic to volley and kill the game.
Joao Felix was hauled off at half-time and won’t be as happy as the other two January arrivals with his performance. He gave away the ball before Patson Daka’s powerful drive beat Kepa Arrizabalaga in the 39th minute. He did, however, look threatening and hit the post with a good chip, before netting a tap-in, only to see it ruled out for offside.
Their collective displays show that the manager is beginning to build a sense of cohesion that deserted his team for much for 2023. Chelsea have won three matches for the first time since October and cut the gap to Liverpool for the Europa League spots to just five points.
The Blues have saved their season and the new signings, having disrupted the club in late January and throughout February, are now playing their part.