Wesley Fofana cannot solve Chelsea’s problems this season

Wesley Fofana with Todd Boehly.

New Chelsea proprietor Todd Boehly claimed in June that golf equipment would no longer be in a position to expend wildly owing to UEFA clamping down on its Economical Truthful Perform (FFP) plan, possibly signalling to fans to restrict their anticipations.

They needn’t have carried out that, though, for the reason that Chelsea finished up breaking the world record for money spent on transfers in a transfer window.

Marc Cucurella, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly had been the marquee signings for the Blues, but the a person with the most important transfer fee was Wesley Fofana, who price tag £70 million.

That is rather a large transfer fee for a youthful centre-back. In fact, it put Fofana in the top 5 in the listing of most highly-priced defenders in terms of transfer expenses.

Focusing on the participant by yourself, this payment is double of FootballTransfers’ valuation of him, as our model suggests he is value £35M.

Chelsea’s defence has been troublesome for them so considerably this season as they had conceded 8 goals in 5 video games in advance of Fofana’s arrival with a destructive goal big difference.

So that may well seem to be to justify spending greatly on a centre-back again. The authentic issue, however, is whether it is the centre-again place that is the root of the problems.

In advance of we answer that, allow us initial just take a seem at what Fofana will provide to Chelsea.

Fofana at Leicester City

Fofana joined Leicester City from Saint-Étienne in the summer months of 2020, when he was just 19 several years old.

Even as a teenager, he set up himself as a essential player in Brendan Rodgers’ side, setting up 27 league video games in the 2020/21 season. He was established to have an even far better 2021/22 marketing campaign, but a fractured fibula in pre-season meant that he had to pass up most of it. He was back to entire health for the residence extend of the season.

He only played 7 matches in 2021/22, so assessing his stats relative to other defenders who performed a noticeably higher quantity of minutes would not be intelligent. Hence, we will go again to 2020/21 for his percentile chart, which does a excellent occupation of highlighting his strengths.

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Rodgers alternated between a back-three and again-four in the course of the 2020/21 season, but Fofana was largely applied as the right-sided centre-again in either scenario. In possession, his ball development, in particular by carrying, definitely stood out, even though he proved to be a substantial-quantity defender when his aspect did not have the ball.

Unfortunately, we do not have occasion knowledge from the 2020/21 season to get the job done with, so we will have to fall back again on the lesser sample measurement of 2021/22, which nevertheless does give us a respectable thought about some styles in Fofana’s game. After his return from personal injury, Fofana mainly played in the right centre-again position in a back again-4, while he did play a few of matches in the pretty center of a back-three.

This is pretty evidently obvious in his heatmap, which is largely clustered in the right 50 %-place, but also has a protrusion to the middle location of the pitch.

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Fofana’s progressive passing was not in comprehensive swing previous season, but he did show his inclination to engage in extended balls out to the whole-backs, primarily from the center of the back-3, as can be inferred by the go origins.

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His ball carrying was in entire swing, although, and once more, it is distinct that he was freer to get forward sort the middle of a back again-3.

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This is not a surprise in any way at all, because centre-backs naturally have far more license and duty for ball development when participating in with two other companions as opposed to a single, but the big difference in volume for Fofana certainly is sizeable.

In phrases of defending, nevertheless, he showed his proactivity a large amount far more in a back-4, as is apparent from his defensive actions heatmap which is heavily centred on the right aspect of the pitch, particularly in the regions closer to the midway line.

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All this is to say, Fofana has verified that he can excel both of those in a back again-3 and again-four. Of course, his strengths a little fluctuate in both of those devices, but that is legitimate for almost any centre-again in the planet.

Chelsea’s challenges this season and why Fofana can’t resolve them

It is protected to say that the start of the season has been considerably from perfect for Chelsea. At the time of Fofana becoming a member of, they sat in eighth position in the league table with seven details from five games, acquiring lost two at Leeds United and Southampton.

On Fofana’s debut, Chelsea defeat West Ham 2-1 in a massively controversial match thanks to a late winner and even later disallowed equaliser.

Naturally, for that reason, there are a number of matters heading mistaken for Chelsea. Their lack of a pure striker has occur to damage them in a number of matches, though Aubameyang has now arrived.

But additional importantly, Thomas Tuchel appears conflicted among sticking to the 3-4-2-1 formation he has utilized for a year and a 50 % and switching to a 4-3-3, which in switch is leading to some incohesive performances from the players.

Without a doubt, their defence has suffered as a by-product or service of this instability. Chelsea experienced conceded eight goals in their five league matches prior to Fofana arrived, and the fundamental quantities didn’t look any much better simply because their xG conceded tally was a worrying 7.5. This was the the fifth-worst tally in the league.

Of class, Fofana was not signed in reaction to these challenges, but if he can assistance tackle any of them, his significant transfer payment could possibly be much better justified.

The issues is that this is not the situation, because Chelsea’s defensive problems in fact stem from their midfield, so no centre-back in the earth can address the root lead to of the situation.

Tuchel’s final decision to change to a 4-3-3 is pretty puzzling simply because Chelsea truly do not have the gamers required for a 3-male midfield. They do have some proficient quantity eights, but it is the defensive midfield placement the place they are lacking solutions. Jorginho can do a respectable position in possession, but he gives inadequate defensive balance, particularly in transition.

N’Golo Kante’s damage problems indicate that Chelsea cannot generally rely on his availability, and besides, he is not a correct defensive midfielder. The subsequent ideal selection is Mateo Kovacic, who is also substantially better as a quantity eight.

The difficulty with acquiring a midfield full of players who are not the most effective at tracking again and defending is that it leaves the defence uncovered, after which you are not able to fault any particular person for goals conceded. A great example of this came in their match in opposition to Southampton, in which Adam Armstrong was afforded an unforgivable total of house inside of the box in concerning the back line and midfield.

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None of the defenders can be blamed for this since one of the midfield trio should have been monitoring his operate, but they all failed to do that. Fofana, or certainly any other centre-back again, can not end this goal from currently being conceded.

In summary, even though Fofana can make improvements to Chelsea’s centre-back again choices as he can be a great spouse for Kalidou Koulibaly in a again-4, or slot into the right of a three with Silva and Koulibaly, he will not be able to magically make Chelsea’s defending a great deal greater. There are tactical concerns at engage in there, which the manager need to correct although taking into consideration the staff offered in his squad.

For that reason, it is accurate that Chelsea are overpaying for the youthful Frenchman, but that has virtually become the norm for massive Premier League clubs now, specifically in the dying levels of a transfer window. They have certainly signed a really gifted player who can nevertheless continue to produce at just 21 yrs of age, so he has the potential to be 1 of the very best defenders in the league.

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