Talking Tactics

Fofana return can put Chelsea back on front foot

By Adrian Clarke 18 Dec 2022

Adrian Clarke says Frenchman's aggressive defending will help transform the Blues' backline

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Wesley Fofana (CHE)

Fofana’s upcoming return from a knee injury suffered in October is a very welcome boost for Chelsea head coach Graham Potter.

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Chelsea lost their last three Premier League matches before the FIFA World Cup 2022, a run that included a 4-1 defeat at Potter’s former club Brighton & Hove Albion.

Defensively, they have struggled. From open play, Chelsea have an Expected Goals Against (xGA) score of 14.46, which ranks 13th among all teams this season.

Summer signing Fofana, 22, will reinforce them at the back.

He was named in two of Potter's first three starting XIs, playing his part in victories versus Crystal Palace and AC Milan, scoring his maiden Chelsea goal against the Italian side.

However, the former Leicester City star was forced off with a knee problem in the 38th minute of that UEFA Champions League match.

Versatile defender

Since a superb 2020/21 campaign, Fofana has endured a frustrating spell.

Last term he was limited to only seven top-flight starts, after fracturing his fibula in a pre-season friendly for Leicester.

It was his previous form that earned him a move to Stamford Bridge, though, and if he can replicate those consistent performances, he will become a firm favourite in west London.

When fully fit, Fofana would likely be regarded as first-choice ahead of Trevoh Chalobah and Cesar Azpilicueta on the right of a back three.

The Frenchman is also a reliable option to play on the right of a central defensive pairing, just as he did at Selhurst Park in Potter’s first Premier League match at the helm.

On the front foot

Fofana is outstanding at the art of making interceptions.

Positionally sound, but also proactive in his approach, he is adept at stepping forward to regain possession from a stray pass.

This season, he is averaging 3.5 interceptions per match in the Premier League, making nine interceptions in two outings for the Foxes prior to his transfer.

Fofana interceptions 2022/23
Opponent Interceptions
Brentford 5
Arsenal 4
West Ham 1
Crystal Palace 4

Breaking up play with eye-catching interceptions is undoubtedly one of Fofana’s great strengths.

During his imperious 2020/21 campaign, his first in English football, he made the joint-fourth most interceptions by defenders.

The Blues will benefit greatly from this aspect of his game.

Most interceptions in 2020/21
Defender Interceptions
Jan Bednarek (SOU) 84
Ben White (BHA) 62
Aaron Wan-Bissaka (MUN) 62
Wesley Fofana (LEI) 61
Liam Cooper (LEE) 61

Fofana is due to return to fitness around the same time as another key Chelsea player, Reece James.

The availability of these two excellent young defenders will have a positive impact on the team.

Both bring pace, strength, ball-carrying excellence and high levels of technical ability on the ball.

Chelsea will be thrilled to have both players back as they target a return to winning ways.

Also in this series

Part 1: Smith Rowe return will sharpen Arsenal's cutting edge
Part 2: How Isak can fire Newcastle's top-four challenge
Part 3: Martial ready to be United's leading man after Ronaldo exit

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