Graham Potter: Chelsea ‘suffering’ but must stick together amid ‘frustrating’ run | Football News

Graham Potter called on Chelsea to show a united front after defeat away to local rivals Fulham heaped pressure on his position and left the Blues on their worst run of league form since 1996.

Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat at Craven Cottage, which included a red card on debut for Joao Felix and an injury to Denis Zakaria, means Potter’s side have taken just six points from their past nine Premier League games. They sit 10th in the table, 10 points off fourth-placed Manchester United who have a game in hand.

“We are suffering at the moment. We’re suffering, the fans are suffering. We feel for them,” said Potter. “It’s important to stick together and try to get through this tough period.”

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Highlights from the Premier League match between Fulham and Chelsea

Chelsea crashed out of the third round of the FA Cup on Sunday with a 4-0 thrashing at Manchester City, who also ended their Carabao Cup hopes before Christmas. With such a big gap to the top four, it seems the Champions League is their only hope of success this season.

For Potter, Thursday was another frustrating evening, with Felix’s encouraging debut cut short by his sending off, an injury list extended to 10 players, and defensive mistakes costing his side vital points.

Chelsea’s XI of absentees

  • Edouard Mendy (shoulder)
  • Reece James (knee)
  • Wesley Fofana (knee)
  • Ben Chilwell (hamstring)
  • N’Golo Kante (thigh)
  • Ruben Loftus-Cheek (ankle)
  • Denis Zakaria (unknown)
  • Raheem Sterling (hamstring)
  • Christian Pulisic (ankle)
  • Armando Broja (knee)
  • Joao Felix (suspension)

“It’s really frustrating, incredibly challenging,” said Potter of the situation. “I feel for the supporters.

“We’re disappointed to lose tonight. I felt it was a relatively even game in the first half, we had a couple of chances. But I think the basics we can do a little bit better, in terms of our defending and football actions .

“We get back in the game and the red card is where we’re at at the moment, in terms of things that can happen to us [do happen to us].

“To lose Joao for three matches is really disappointing. Joao is a young player, a top player, you can see his quality and there wasn’t any malice [in the tackle] but the ref has a decision to make. He’ll learn from it.

“More than anything fantastic from the opponent, it was more our basic actions where we have to do better.”

Which Premier League games could Felix now miss?

  • January 15 – Chelsea vs Crystal Palace, kick-off 2pm
  • January 21 – Liverpool vs Chelsea, kick-off 12.30pm
  • February 3 – Chelsea vs Fulham, kick-off 8pm – live on Sky Sports
  • Felix could return for West Ham vs Chelsea on February 11, kick-off 12.30pm

Speaking to BT Sports, Potter said about Felix’s red card: “It was a forward’s tackle, there was no malice in it but I understand why it was a red. It is another blow, the hits keep coming at the moment.

“He was really good, you could see his quality in the game, so it is doubly disappointing for us.”

With Felix suspended, where do Chelsea’s goals come from now?

Sky Sports’ Peter Smith at Craven Cottage:

After just 15 minutes, Chelsea’s traveling supporters were singing Joao Felix’s name. He had tempted two Fulham players into yellow-card fouls, nutmegged Tim Ream to tee up Kai Havertz for a good chance and seen several good openings come his way.

It was the kind of spark Chelsea and Graham Potter had desperately been searching for in attack. Before Thursday they’d managed to score just three times in their last seven matches. Felix appeared to be the answer to their problems. The player to provide creativity, craft and real quality in the final third.

Joao Felix on debut for Chelsea
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Felix had an encouraging Premier League debut before his red card

But before the hour mark – like so many things for Potter and Chelsea right now – it had gone badly wrong. Felix’s lunge at Kenny Tete was hardly the most vicious challenge but with his studs up and by connecting with his opponent’s shin, there was only going to be one outcome.

Felix had seemed set to grab the headlines with his first-half display – but it was his rash moment in the second which will be the lasting memory of his debut. He now misses three of his final 20 Premier League games of his loan spell. An expensive foul indeed.

But it also throws up the question of how Potter gets his attack firing again for the matches with Crystal Palace, Liverpool and Fulham, which Felix will miss.

Kai Havertz struggled at Craven Cottage along with most of the Chelsea forward line
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Kai Havertz struggled at Craven Cottage along with most of the Chelsea forward line

His options are limited. Havertz was once again wasteful at Craven Cottage, losing his battle with Bernd Leno emphatically. Raheem Sterling is still recovering from injury. David Datro Fofana has only just arrived from Molde. And as for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, he wasn’t even used off the bench with Chelsea in desperate need of a goal. That felt like a telling decision from Potter, who subsubbed the striker in the previous Premier League game.

Chelsea are the lowest scorers in the top half by some way, so how do they fire their way out of this dreadful run of form? It’s a major question which needs answering before Sunday.

At the back: Chelsea crumble under the slightest of pressure

Sky Sports’ Sam Blitz:

The frustration for under-fire manager Potter is that Thursday night’s defeat at Fulham was entirely Chelsea’s doing.

The Blues started brilliantly at Craven Cottage with Felix looking to be the answer to Chelsea’s creativity issues by popping up smartly in the midfield holes and carrying the ball forward with flair.

Chelsea's defense crumbled even under the slightest of pressures
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Chelsea’s defense crumbled even under the slightest of pressures

In the first 20 minutes, Chelsea had created eight decent chances and limited Fulham to scraps. While the Blues were n’t in front, it looked like there was progress in a week where Potter had “honest conversations” with his squad.

Then it all fell apart at the back. Trevoh Chalobah’s poor touch out of the back started a catalog of errors. That mistake led to Bobby Decordova-Reid hitting the bar but then came the pressure. Minutes later, Lewis Hall was guilty for a similar mistake and Willian put Fulham in front. All that arduous early running went down the drain and after looking so comfortable, Chelsea were clinging on for half-time.

The same could be said for Felix’s red card. Chelsea had hauled themselves back into the game after the break and were on top, looking to complete the comeback. Suddenly, the one moment of madness led to the game running away from Chelsea again.

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Following his side’s 2-1 defeat to Fulham, Chelsea head coach Graham Potter says the loss of Joao Felix for three games following a red card is ‘really disappointing’

Potter must be encouraged by his individual ability to set up a team capable of performing, only to see frustration in his young, injury-ridden side fall apart as soon as the pressure is cranked up.

With another London derby with Crystal Palace awaiting the Blues on Sunday, the Chelsea manager knows that a good start to calm the nerves is needed, not just for his players but the fans too.

But if they lose that one…

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