Chelsea 0-0 Fulham: £106.8m signing Enzo Fernandez makes Blues debut but can’t inspire victory in west London derby

Fulham battled to a 0-0 draw at Chelsea to once again frustrate their big-spending neighbours, moved up to sixth in the Premier League and dealt another blow to their rivals’ top-four hopes.

Fulham had ended a near-17 year wait for a win in this west London derby last month at Craven Cottage and while they couldn’t complete a first-ever league double over Chelsea, they added another point to their impressive tally on their return to the top-flight.

Chelsea came close, with Kai Havertz hitting a post in the first half and Conor Gallagher and David Datro Fofana agonisingly unable to convert late on but despite spending a record £322m in the January transfer window, this was an illustration there will be no quick fix for Graham Potter’s side.

Fofana was one of five winter-window arrivals on show over the course of the game, and while British transfer record signing Enzo Fernandez impressed just days after his £106.8m move – and almost scored with a fine effort from distance – £88.5m Mykhailo Mudryk struggled to get involved and was taken off at half-time in his first home game for the Blues. Potter later revealed the Ukraine international had been suffering with a “heavy cold”.

Like Fofana, Noni Madueke, a £29m purchase from PSV, added some spark to Chelsea’s attack, along with fit-again Raheem Sterling, but with just seven goals in their last 12 Premier League games Chelsea remain toothless in the final third and, although they’re now up to ninth in the table, the nine-point gap to Manchester United, who have a game in hand, is looking increasingly difficult to overcome.

Player ratings

Chelsea: Kepa (7), James (6), Thiago Silva (7), Badiashile (6), Cucurella (5), Gallagher (6), Fernandez (7), Mount (6), Ziyech (6), Havertz (6), Mudryk (5).

Subs: Madueke (6), Sterling (6), Azpilicueta (6), Fofana (6), Chilwell (N/A)

Fulham: Leno (7), Tete (8), Diop (7), Ream (8), Robinson (7), Palhinha (8), Reed (7), Pereira (7), Willian (7), Decordova-Reid (7), Mitrovic (7).

Subs: Soloman (6), Wilson (6), Cairney (N/A), Vinicius (N/A), Kurzawa (N/A)

Player of the match: Kenny Tete

How Fulham earned their point at Chelsea

After almost two weeks without a game, Chelsea supporters headed to Stamford Bridge in anticipation of seeing their side boosted and perhaps transformed by their record January transfer outlay, with the World Cup’s best young player Fernandez the star attraction.

Team news

  • Chelsea made three changes from the side which drew with Liverpool, with record signing Enzo Fernandez making his debut in midfield, Mykhailo Mudryk appearing for the first time at Stamford Bridge and fit-again Reece James back in the side. Trevoh Chalobah dropped to the bench, Lewis Hall missed out and Jorginho has been sold to Arsenal.
  • After making seven changes for the FA Cup, Marco Silva reverted Fulham’s line-up to the side which lost last time out in the Premier League to Tottenham, with Aleksandr Mitrovic fit to lead the line.

From the first whistle, the Argentina midfielder showed his quality. Sitting in front of the defence, he punched short passes to up the tempo, showed his range with a crossfield ball, and was the top tackler in a first half where he mixed it with Aleksandar Mitrovic at set-pieces. After the break, he demonstrated his threat from distance too, shooting narrowly wide.

Hakim Ziyech should have done better with one Fernandez through-ball, skewing horribly wide. But after missing out on his move to Paris St-Germain on Deadline Day, he regained his focus to play a wonderful pass over the top for Havertz to chip against a post on the stroke of half-time.

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Kai Havertz gets in behind the Fulham defence lobs Bernd Leno but sees his effort hit the post!

There was far less on offer from the other side of the pitch, though, where Mudryk laboured through his first Stamford Bridge outing, repeatedly giving the ball away or losing his duels in a disappointing first showing in front of the Chelsea fans. He was subbed off at the break for Madueke.

Despite the late scare from Havertz, Fulham took encouragement from the opening 45, which had seen Andreas Pereira test Kepa with a long-range strike, and the visitors continued to press forward when they could after the interval, with Palhinha shooting over, Bobby Decordova-Reid hitting the target and Willian putting in a fine display on his return to the club where he spent seven years of his career.

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Connor Gallagher hits the side-netting as Chelsea continue to push for the opening goal

Inevitably Chelsea ramped up the pressure in the latter stages, though, and Gallagher had his head in his hands when he bent a low shot just the wrong side of the post before Fofana took the ball around Bernd Leno only to be denied by a last-ditch block by Tim Ream. In the end it was superb defending but the new arrival will feel he should have scored.

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David Datro Fofana has a great chance to give Chelsea the lead after a mistake from Bernd Leno in the Fulham goal, but Tim Ream is there to cover and clear off the line

That left Chelsea picking out the positives from the night, with the appearances of Reece James and Ben Chilwell after their respective injuries, as well as a third-straight clean sheet for the centre-back pairing of Thiago Silva and Benoit Badiashile. But in the end it was another disappointing outing for Potter and his players and they now have a huge task on their hands to finish this season where they want to be in the Premier League.

Potter: Fernandez exciting – but we must do more in attack

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Graham Potter says his side are disappointed they didn’t get the win against Fulham, but says his team will benefit from the experience, following their influx of new signings.

Chelsea boss Graham Potter: “There was a lot of positivity and good feeling from the start of game but we didn’t do enough in terms of our attacking play to create more, which is something we need to do. Fulham defended well, they were well organised. That connection, understanding we need we lacked, which is understandable with players coming back from injury and new players.

“There were some positives for us, the effort and spirit was there, but as an attacking team we’d like to do more.

“I thought [Fernandez] handled himself magnificently. You can see his quality, what he’ll bring to the team. It’s not easy as he hasn’t been with us long. I’m excited with him.

“Mudryk has had a heavy cold all week. We thought 60 minutes would be his maximum but he felt heavy legged at half time and we’re still building him up with the break he’s had in his season.

“I’m confident with the potential we have, the quality in the group. What we need to do now is gel the team. There’s a lot of football to play.”

Neville: That was basic football from Chelsea

Sky Sports’ Gary Neville:

“Everything was really basic from Chelsea. I think it’s because Graham Potter hasn’t had time to work with them, he hasn’t had time to develop them. He’s going to need some time here. The front line needs to improve, the midfield needs to improve, so even though they’ve spent £600m I looked at every department I thought they need to get a lot better. Whether that is worry or in time it will come. I wasn’t that impressed. It’s going to take a lot of time for players to settle in.

“You can’t get away from the money. It’s jaw-dropping, staggering. £600m has been spent. They are going to need to be patient as no-one has done this before. And it’s easy to see why as it’s so difficult to put a team together.”

Carra: Fulham? It’s just like watching… Benitez!

Sky Sports’ Jamie Carragher:

“Watching that, it felt like I was playing for Rafa Benitez again at Liverpool – the way Fulham were set up was very similar with the lines tight together and I never felt like Chelsea were going to score.

“It didn’t feel like the players were defending on their own, it was like a partnership all across the pitch. That’s what that system gives you.”

Silva: Our players had to be better than the last game – and they did it

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Marco Silva credits his Fulham side for keeping consistent in their match against Chelsea, and playing the style of football they played when they comfortably won the Sky Bet Championship last season.

Fulham boss Marco Silva: “A proper derby. A good derby from ourselves. From the first minute the players understood really well the plan and executed it well as well. We were here to embrace the challenge and play eyes to eyes with Chelsea.

“We knew it would be difficult – they had more time to prepare the game. I told the players we had to be even better than the last game at the Cottage and they did it. The way we always tried to play forward, our reaction when we lost the ball was really good, and I think we deserved the points.

“In the last minutes of the game they pushed us back, a normal situation, but our organisation was really good.”

Opta stats

  • Graham Potter has won 20 points in his first 15 Premier League games with Chelsea, with only Glenn Hoddle (13) and Gianluca Vialli (19) accruing fewer in their first 15 in charge of the Blues.
  • Fulham have picked up 32 points from their first 22 games of this Premier League season (W9 D5 L8), only winning more top-flight points at this stage of a campaign once before (39 in 1959-60, assuming 3 pts/win).
  • Chelsea manager Graham Potter has faced Fulham five times without winning in the Premier League (D3 L2), only facing Chelsea more without enjoying a victory (six games).
  • Fulham have kept three clean sheets in their last four away Premier League games (one goal conceded in total), as many as they managed in their previous 15 in the competition (24 goals conceded in total).
  • Graham Potter has made 64 changes to Chelsea’s starting XI in his 15 Premier League games in charge so far, the second-most in a manager’s first 15 games in charge of a club in Premier League history, behind only his predecessor Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea (66).
  • Enzo Fernandez is the 78th Argentinian to play in the Premier League and the sixth to do so for Chelsea (also Caballero, Crespo, Di Santo, Higuaín and Verón), with only Manchester United (8), Manchester City, Tottenham and West Ham (all seven) seeing more players from Argentina line out for them in the competition.

What’s next?

Chelsea visit their lowly London rivals West Ham in the Premier League on Saturday February 11. Kick-off is at 12.30pm.

Fulham head to Sunderland on Wednesday for their FA Cup fourth-round replay at 7.45pm before returning to Craven Cottage to host Nottingham Forest on Saturday with kick-off at 3pm.

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