Chelsea laboured to a 1-1 draw with West Ham on Saturday afternoon as their Premier League struggles continued under Graham Potter. The Blues were dominant in the first half and went ahead through Joao Felix. However, they struggled to reprise that form after former player Emerson Palmieri equalised, and staggered to a seventh top-flight draw of the campaign after having a late penalty shout denied. Express Sport looks at five things we learned from the match.
Felix opens account
Three of Chelsea’s January arrivals combined to excellent effect to open the scoring. It was Mykhaylo Mudryk’s excellent tackle that eventually saw Enzo Fernandez receive possession.
The British-record arrival’s superb cross was headed in by Felix. It was the Portuguese attacker’s first goal since he completed his mega-money loan move from Atletico Madrid.
Felix was excellent on his return to the Chelsea team from his three-match ban. An early strike was ruled out for offside, and the 23-year-old was a busy presence alongside strike partner Kai Havertz.
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Eyebrow-raising team selection
There was plenty of confusion when Chelsea’s incredibly attacking line-up was announced. Noni Madueke made his full debut in a team that also included Mudryk, Felix and Havertz. With the usually more attack-minded Ruben Loftus-Cheek also selected, it seemed that Fernandez would be a sole holding midfielder with everyone else piling forwards.
But Potter’s side lined up in a 4-2-3-1 with Loftus-Cheek alongside Fernandez in the two deeper midfield positions. Felix sat behind Havertz in a formation that became a 4-2-2-2 in attack.
It remains to be seen if Potter will flitter between different formations between games, or settle on a preferred shape. What the West Ham game might prove is that the Chelsea boss is trying to cram his January signings into one team, and is struggling to find balance.
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Mount’s future in doubt?
Mason Mount was a high-profile exclusion from the Chelsea team. The England midfielder was left on the bench by Potter, who preferred his ultra-attacking selection.
Mount is a divisive figure at Stamford Bridge, despite being an academy graduate. Many feel that the 24-year-old is of an inferior quality to many of Chelsea’s recent signings.
When he was once a certain starter at Chelsea, Mount is now fighting for his place. In the backdrop of questions over his ability hangs a contract saga that is yet to be resolved.
Come the summer, Mount will have just 12 months left on his deal. Discussions over an extension have stalled, while Liverpool have been linked with a big-money transfer. Mount’s future in west London remains in significant doubt.
Aubameyang out the door
After being snubbed yet again for a place in the matchday squad, summer signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is surely heading towards the Stamford Bridge exit. The former Arsenal captain could not move to another team in Europe in January having played for Barcelona and the Blues this year, but there remain options for the striker.
Aubameyang could move to MLS because the American campaign is technically into its 2023 season, while the European campaign is still in the 2022-23 season. His registration would be valid in MLS.
Potter does not appear to rate Aubameyang, with Havertz and Felix preferred. Young January arrival David Datro Fofana has got the nod for the place on the bench.