How Wesley Fofana has excelled in Thiago Silva’s absence ahead of hostile reception for Chelsea star

How Wesley Fofana has excelled in Thiago Silva’s absence ahead of hostile reception for Chelsea star

Wesley Fofana has taken the baton from Thiago Silva after battling back from injury and is key to Chelsea’s potential revival.

The 22-year-old will likely start against his former club Leicester on Saturday but faces having every one of his touches booed at the King Power Stadium. Those hostile supporters will have enjoyed Fofana’s early struggles in west London but, maybe like his team as a whole, he has turned the corner.

Manager Graham Potter named Fofana in midweek as among six “important” players that he has missed during his dismal run. That is until the mood lifted after a win over Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Tuesday.

After his influential display in Europe, the injury-hit defender will make just his 10th Chelsea appearance against a dangerous Foxes attack that includes James Maddison, Harvey Barnes and Kelechi Iheanacho. He looks ready to offer a return on the £75million investment by co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali, who gave him a seven-year deal.

Few young defenders would be able to fill Silva’s boots but his display against Leeds helped end a six-game winless run for Potter.

It has been a long road for Fofana to show his influence. His troubles began after a horrific leg break in a friendly against Villarreal meant he could play just 11 full games in his final Leicester season.

He injured his knee in the game against AC Milan after opening the scoring with his first Chelsea goal and, heartbreakingly, was injured again during his comeback in a friendly match with Brentford. The second injury did not reflect well on Chelsea’s medical department after Reece James suffered a setback in the same week.

Fofana’s season has partly been about getting his body right again. Arguably, he should have waited until 2023 for his big move. Having been pictured in a Chelsea shirt as a boy and spoken about idolising Didier Drogba, the allure of joining Chelsea seemed too much when another year at Leicester may have been preferable.

Wesley Fofana (IKIMAGES/AFP via Getty Images)
Wesley Fofana (IKIMAGES/AFP via Getty Images)

Only now does Fofana look able to play at his best level again. He won more aerial duels than any other playing against Leeds, scoring one of his two attacking headers last week.

Meanwhile, his recovery pace is back on show now he is playing as a wide centre back in a 3-4-3 system. Fofana is excelling in an Antonio Rudiger-style that Thomas Tuchel implemented in west London last season.

Fofana remains a player with high potential rather than the finished article. He will continue to develop and needs to learn from Kalidou Koulibaly, Cesar Azpilicueta and Silva to become a more vocal leader on the pitch. That said, he is always seen smiling and has been a positive influence on a dour dressing room in a turbulent season at Stamford Bridge.

His positive outlook will help him handle the boos he will receive for criticising his former manager Brendan Rodgers on Instagram and liking a host of Chelsea transfer posts on social media before his move. Fofana will not care — and he has the chance to show Leicester what they are missing.