London: Chelsea’s Enzo Fernandez shone on his debut and some other new faces hinted at their potential but, after a 300 million pounds ($361.53 million) January spending spree, the same problems weighed on the Blues in their 0-0 draw with Fulham on Friday.
With only 22 goals scored in 21 Premier League games so far this season, coach Graham Potter has yet to find a way to turn the wealth of talent in his huge squad into a winning machine.
Argentina’s World Cup-winner Fernandez, bought this week for a British record of almost 107 million pounds from Benfica, flashed a shot just wide in the 72nd minute after an imperious first-half display of tackling and passing.
Fellow debutant David Datro Fofana, on as a substitute after the forward’s transfer from Molde of Norway, had a shot cleared almost off the line seven minutes later.
Noni Madueke, an England youth international who also came off the bench for his first appearance for Chelsea since signing from PSV Eindhoven, showed some pace and drive.
But for all the buzz created by the string of signings by the club’s new American owners in the mid-season transfer window, there was familiar frustration for the home fans as Chelsea struggled to break down their organised visitors.
“We didn’t do enough in terms of our attacking play to create more, which is something we need to do,” Potter - who is under pressure to reverse Chelsea’s slide to the middle of the league table - told reporters.
“That bit of connection, that bit of fluidity, that bit of understanding that you need, we lacked a little bit.” ‘GEL THE TEAM’ Potter said it was understandable that his side, with wing back Reece James returning from injury alongside the new faces, were not firing on all cylinders.
But he said he was confident they could yet finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League next season. Chelsea are currently nine points adrift of fourth-placed Manchester United who have a game in hand.
“What we need to do now is gel the team. That is the challenge,” Potter said.
Ukraine international Mykhailo Mudryk, another expensive January signing from Shakhtar Donetsk, failed to find the space he enjoyed on his debut as a substitute against Liverpool two weeks ago and was replaced by Madueke at halftime.
Potter said the winger had been suffering from a cold. Fulham boss Marco Silva praised his team, who beat Chelsea 2-1 at Craven Cottage in January.
“From the first minute the players understood really well the plan and they executed really well,” Silva said.
Rather than worry about Chelsea’s new-look squad, he said Fulham made sure they maintained the form that has propelled them to sixth in the table.
“Our focus to be honest is on ourselves ... and what we can do as a team,” the Portuguese coach said. “Our organisation was really good and ... we deserved the result.”