Chelsea Fulham 0-0 Premier League

Chelsea – Fulham: Money Can’t Buy Goals (0-0)

After going out and spending close to a third of a billion Euros on winter transfers, it was high time for Chelsea to turn things around on the pitch. A number of their new arrivals started or came off the bench, but no one could make the all-important impact of scoring a goal. As a result, they have now spent the last 200 minutes of league football and a bit more without finding the back of the net.

Tactical analysis and match report by Neel Shelat.

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They say money cannot buy success, and that is at least partly true in the world of football. At a time when state-funded consortia are taking over clubs and injecting bucketloads of cash to completely transform their fortunes, it is clear that this sort of disproportionate financing has imbalanced the playing field.

Yet, money cannot always buy results, nor can it guarantee a smart business model. A great case in point came in the first Premier League match after the end of the 2023 winter transfer window. Chelsea have spent over €610 million this season alone – a tally greater than Fulham’s expenditure since the turn of the century. Even then, the visitors started the match two points and three places above their hosts.

Of course, the reason behind that is a combination of Chelsea underperforming and Fulham exceeding expectations. Even after replacing Thomas Tuchel with Graham Potter, they have not been able to put together a good run of form and therefore found themselves down in tenth place. Fulham, on the other hand, have been great at edging out wins in very close matches, which is why they started this match up in seventh place.

Chelsea lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation on paper. Kepa Arrizabalaga had a back line of Reece James, Thiago Silva, Benoît Badiashile and Marc Cucurella ahead of him. Enzo Fernández, the most expensive footballer to arrive in Great Britain, made his Chelsea debut alongside Conor Gallagher in midfield, whilst Mason Mount started ahead of them. A couple of days after being ‘stranded in Paris’, Hakim Ziyech started on the right wing alongside Kai Havertz and Mykhailo Mudryk in the front three.

Fulham seemed to set out in their usual 4-2-3-1 shape. Bernd Leno was in goal behind Kenny Tete, Issa Diop, Tim Ream and Antonee Robinson. Harrison Reed and João Palhinha operated behind Andreas Pereira in midfield, whilst Bobby Decordova-Reid and Willian flanked Aleksandar Mitrović in the attack.

Chelsea fail to break Fulham’s block

The big question looming for Chelsea is how quickly they can integrate their new signings into the team. They handed out a fair few debuts on the night so they are certainly trying to get them on the pitch as quickly as possible, but the downside of that is that the team does not look half as cohesive as it should.

At the same time, there were some questionable tactical decisions made in this match too. Although they lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation on paper, Chelsea looked a lot more like a side using a 4-3-3 shape in possession as Gallagher got forward and left Fernández alone in defensive midfield. However, this only played into Fulham’s hands as they could easily contain them in their 4-4-2/4-2-3-1 medium block.

18th minute: Fulham’s medium block in action against Chelsea in possession.

As the above snapshot shows, Pereira was tasked with tracking Fernández around. In spite of the Brazilian midfielder’s best efforts, the Chelsea debutante had a great game as he popped up all over midfield to amass 99 touches – the third-most of any player in the match, only behind the two Chelsea center-backs.

However, the trouble was that the ball did not get much further than Fernández. The other two Chelsea midfielders never really dropped deep and were well-marked by Fulham their opposite numbers, so the home side really could not play through the middle. That shows up quite clearly in their passmap.

Chelsea’s passmap shows lots of possession kept between the back five, but little reaching the attackers.

Fulham try to play through Chelsea’s block

If anything, it was Fulham who had a better blueprint for breaking down the opposition block with sustained possession. They too moved to more of a 4-3-3-like shape in possession in spite of their 4-2-3-1 formation on paper as they always do, but Marco Silva’s side provided support to their deepest midfielder in a couple of ways.

The simplest and most obvious one was to ask Reed to drop back alongside Palhinha, which is what he mostly did in the buildup phase. However, Chelsea’s usage of a three-player midfield meant that they could go player-for-player in the region, so Fernández often stepped up to Reed. Therefore, someone else needed to move into midfield to create an overload, and that was done by one of the wingers.

35th minute: Willian drops into midfield and draws Gallagher away, freeing up Pereira. The Brazilian midfielder is then able to receive Ream’s pass between the lines, before turning and carrying the ball forward.

In this manner, Fulham were able to progress the ball through the middle and make some promising entries into the final third. Unfortunately for them, that is where they came up short, as their final ball or action always left something to be desired.

The flipside to this was that losing the ball in midfield would leave the visitors’ defense a little exposed in transition. Indeed, this is something that Chelsea were able to exploit thanks to the ball-winning ability of Fernández (who made a match-high of six tackles), but like Fulham their attackers could not apply the finishing touch.

Both sides settle for a draw

The second period followed a very similar pattern to the first. Chelsea kept far more possession but made very little of it, Fulham looked a little more adept at progressing the ball into dangerous areas but could not make anything of it in the final third, and the hosts created a couple of dangerous chances in transition.

Chelsea also introduced more new faces to the league. Noni Madueke replaced Mudryk at half-time, but much like the Ukrainian international, his involvement in the match was very limited. David Datro Fofana came on for the last quarter of an hour and made a decent impact, most notably rounding the keeper in the 79th minute but having his shot blocked on the goal line.

So, in the end, both sides had to make do with a goalless draw. That seemed a fair result on the balance of play too, as Fulham’s overall performance looked a little more well-rounded overall but Chelsea created the better chances by far.


It would have been unwise to hold high expectations for Chelsea’s first performance after such a busy transfer window, so this slightly disjointed showing should be understandable. The new boys had mixed days – Fernández looked great all round, Fofana’s cameo was promising, but Mudryk and Madueke were very quiet. Now, it is time for them to mould all of these big signings into a functioning collective.

Meanwhile, Fulham showed just why they find themselves so high up in the table. This was not too dissimilar a showing from their win over Chelsea at Craven Cottage a few weeks ago, but the only difference was that they failed to find the back of the net. Still, they should be quite pleased about taking points off their near neighbours on both occasions this season.

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