Chelsea players ranked out of 10 as Blues endure grim run under Graham Potter
Defeat at Fulham consigned Chelsea to their third successive loss, maintaining their diabolical run of just one Premier League victory since mid-October.
The loss at Manchester City in the FA Cup on Sunday last week brought with it the first real signs of displeasure at the current regime, with Thomas Tuchel’s name being sung from the away end.
But while Graham Potter has failed to convince some Chelsea supporters that he is the right man for the job, others have taken aim at the playing squad.
Debate will rage about who is responsible for Chelsea’s current turmoil, but most supporters seemingly accept that the players are not blameless.
Sportsmail, here, definitively ranks all of Chelsea’s players this season out of 10.
Graham Potter (left) has experienced a significant downturn in results in recent months at Chelsea and owner Todd Boehly (right) could pull the trigger if the trend continues
Thomas Tuchel’s undisputed first choice finished last season with concerns over his form. High-profile errors late in the season led to many questioning whether or not his place in the side ahead of Kepa Arrizabalaga was warranted.
Indeed, last summer speculation swirled that Chelsea still viewed the Spaniard as their long-term first choice with Mendy, 30, two years older than Arrizabalaga.
The Senegal international’s season started poorly. Tottenham’s equaliser at Stamford Bridge in August likely should have been saved, while his calamitous error to allow Brendan Aaronson to open the scoring for Leeds at a febrile Elland Road led to an ignominious 3-0 defeat.
Edouard Mendy dropped a clanger earlier in the season as Leeds ran out comprehensive winners
Thereafter, his poor form continued and he was very lucky to get away with another error when VAR – wrongly, it was later admitted – ruled out West Ham’s late equaliser at Stamford Bridge, scored with Mendy writhing in pain on the floor having pushed the ball back into the danger area.
Injuries arrived at a time when it appeared as though Arrizabalaga would do to Mendy what he did to the Spaniard in 2021 and displace him. Has since struggled to get back into the team, having spent almost equal time on the bench and physio table.
Problems that plagued the £72m goalkeeper since he arrived at Chelsea in 2018 appeared to have been extinguished, or largely extinguished, since he replaced Mendy in the side earlier this season.
There were shades, albeit over a longer period, of David de Gea’s development at Manchester United. He appeared more mature, more assured and, through a more developed physique, able to command his box more.
Potter himself appeared to have settled on Arrizabalaga as his first choice, with the Spaniard’s distribution better than his Senegalese team-mate’s.
Kepa Arrizabalaga was a beneficiary of Mendy’s injury struggles but himself has found it difficult in recent months
Arrizabalaga’s form has dove-tailed with the team’s wider performances so far this season. He was impressive, for instance, at Aston Villa and likely put in a match-winning performance that day. Equally so at Brentford a few days later, he performed again as Chelsea toiled to a 0-0 draw.
Chelsea’s form, ever since Villa, has tailed off and so too has Arrizabalaga’s. It somewhat came to a head when he bizarrely failed to claim Jack Grealish’s rather tame ball across the corridor of uncertainty for Manchester City at Stamford Bridge last week.
Undoubtedly Chelsea’s best player this season. The Brazilian is timeless. At 38-years-old, he appears to be getting better and better. His performances for Brazil in Qatar were not too bad, either.
The biggest credit one can pay Thiago Silva is his ability to perform with whoever is next to him. Kalidou Koulibaly, part of Chelsea’s extensive spending last summer, has struggled for large periods of this season but his Brazilian partner has come through it.
A telling moment came against City last week at Stamford Bridge. Thiago Silva, who always pulls his partner over to dish out some final instructions – it is very much a one-way conversation – spoke to Koulibaly before they swapped sides, presumably to deal with the threat of Erling Haaland.
The Premier League’s oldest player is also one of the division’s best, and while chaos has reigned around him this season, he has maintained his utmost professionalism and continued to perform. The 4-0 defeat at City in the FA Cup, for which he was an unused substitute, says it all about what Chelsea are without him.
Thiago Silva has undoubtedly been Chelsea’s standout performer this season among a poor crowd
Did his big move away from Napoli come two or three years too late? We will never know, but Chelsea supporters have seldom seen the centre-back Aurelio De Laurentiis refused to sell for less than close to £100m for a number of summers.
He started brightly. A well-taken strike against Tottenham in the mid-August sun is a solid way to endear yourself to the Stamford Bridge faithful, but his bright moments have been interspersed with moments of total calamity since then.
A red card against Leeds began his downward trend in form, while he has also been run-ragged by the likes of Southampton, Aston Villa, Newcastle, Nottingham Forest and Manchester City.
Has often looked uncertain of himself and his long balls, often to no outlet owing to Chelsea’s style of play, have regularly resulted in opposition goal-kicks.
Despite his size, teams have targeted him with balls forward, while diminutive and pacy forwards have enjoyed isolating him. For his 22 aerial battles won this season, he has lost 18. His 56 duels won compares to 46 lost.
His most common defensive partner, Thiago Silva, has won 66 duels to 26 lost, having also claimed victory in 30 aerial battles to 15 lost.
A shadow of his former self at Brighton. Jamie Carragher eviscerated the Spaniard last week, claiming he ‘doesn’t want to defend’.
‘I also wasn’t happy with Cucurella right throughout that second half until he came off,’ he said.
‘When we talk about the price tag… he can’t defend. And when you say someone can’t defend… I think if someone doesn’t want to defend, it’s probably worse.
‘It looked to me like he didn’t want to defend. When I see defenders diving in all the time, it makes me think they don’t want to defend.’
Marc Cucurella arrived one of the most sought-after defenders but has struggled for confidence
At times it has appeared as though Potter’s former player doesn’t know what to do when out on the pitch. His signing, increasingly, looks like muddled and uncertain thinking from the club last summer.
While Ben Chilwell has been injured, Cucurella has not been an able stand-in, with teams targeting his side. A tackle success rate of 43 per cent suggests they have been right to.
Interesting to see what Chelsea do with Cucurella this summer.
A player the supporters appreciate for his obvious connection to the club from a very young age. This season has largely encapsulated what he has shown in his career to date, however.
Glimpses and flashes of good defending, but also instances of wild inconsistency and drop off in performance. It is a wonder how Chelsea’s pursuit of, seemingly, first choice defenders felt to him last summer after the departures of Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger to Barcelona and Real Madrid, respectively.
There was the nagging sense that he is considered good enough for the squad, but not yet entrusted with a regular starting spot. Potter’s tinkerman tribute act unlikely to have helped him in that regard.
There is no question that Chelsea are significantly better with Ben Chilwell – and Reece James – in the side.
Chilwell initially struggled following his high-profile move from Leicester but since then settled into the squad and has turned himself into one of the on-field leaders within this Chelsea side. They have missed him desperately.
Potter’s insistence on utilising his fullbacks – Cucurella, for instance, was one of his main outlets at Brighton – has suffered significantly in the absence of Chilwell, and indeed his great mate James.
Ben Chilwell’s hamstring injury on the eve of the World Cup persists and he has proven a big miss
The England international seemed certain to be heading to Qatar, before a torn hamstring on the eve of the World Cup ruled him out. It has kept him sidelined ever since, with Potter likely willing the defender back, such is his importance.
In 18 minutes against West Ham earlier this season, he showed what he is all about. A goal and an assist won the game for Chelsea. In nine Premier League games so far this season, he has recorded three goal involvements. Cucurella has two in 17.
Alongside Thiago Silva, their most important player. The injury against Bournemouth, just 50 minutes into his return from a knee injury sustained in the autumn against AC Milan, was a real gut-punch for Chelsea and Potter. The silence, and quiet murmuring of discontent, at Stamford Bridge that evening when James was down being treated was palpable.
Much like Chilwell, James provides an outlet that is impossible for another player in the squad to replicate. Cesar Azpilicueta has been a great servant for Chelsea – their supporters take great delight in telling everyone he’s won it all – but the drop off in attacking quality from the England defender to him is stark.
There were murmurings among Chelsea supporters earlier this season, questioning why James was so important and why the side couldn’t function without him in it. Those questions can only have grown louder.
Chelsea are so reliant on Reece James both defensively and offensively – his knee troubles are concerning for them
The statistics related to Chelsea’s form with and without either both or one of their two first choice fullbacks are stark. This season, they have played eight games with both of them present. They have won six of those, losing the other two at a win percentage rate of 75 per cent. They have played 18 games without at least one of them, conceding 24 goals to seven with them and their win percentage dropping to a relegation-level 28 per cent.
Chelsea average 1.5 goals per game with both of them, compared to a little over one without at least one of them.
Chelsea have suffered a number of injuries this season, none more significant than James. When he has played, he hzpas been brilliant.
As mentioned, he has shown his age this season. At 33, he no longer carries the threat up the right that he once did and he looks increasingly like a player the opposition target.
Having lost a yard of pace, it seems likely Chelsea and Azpilicueta will part ways in the not-too-distant future.
The Italian enjoyed one of the finest midfield seasons in recent years when he was instrumental in Chelsea winning the Champions League and then a few months later equally important in his country winning the European Championship at Wembley.
Since then, his form has fallen off a cliff and it appears likely he will be another player out of the door this summer.
Interestingly, his passes per game has dropped by almost 20, on average. Last season, it was 64 per cent – this just 46. Conclusions are difficult to draw from that alone, but part of the reason appears to be Chelsea moving away from their dependence upon him.
One of the great survivors of the Maurizio Sarri era, particularly considering his importance to that particular regime, it is unclear how much longer he will remain in west London
Jorginho – barely 18 months on from one of his best ever seasons – looks a shadow of his former self
The Croatian enjoyed a sparkling World Cup in which he drove Croatia to the verge of a second consecutive final against France. It was not to be, however.
His form in Qatar largely followed that which had gone before for Chelsea. Clearly valued by Potter, Kovacic is undoubtedly the manager’s first choice midfielder.
His ball carrying ability has relinquished pressure on Chelsea’s back four – or five – without the presence of James and Chilwell on the flanks. His struggles this season, largely, have been a result of other players being absent.
He has been dispossessed on average of 1.30 times per 90 this season, compared to 1.27 times per 90 last. A small difference, perhaps, but it’s noticeable when watching Chelsea.
Last week’s game with Manchester City told an interesting story. While he was able to drive his team on, Chelsea’s insistence on playing out at every opportunity put him into trouble against the champions’ high press.
Unlike a number of his team-mates, he can draw encouragement from his season to date – while when Chelsea talk of the ‘project’ they are trying to build, both in private and publicly, it is certain that Kovacic will remain central to that thinking moving forward.
Mateo Kovacic impressed at the World Cup and has done so for Chelsea this season in parts
Another player who appears a shadow of his former self. A lot of what the England international does goes under the radar. It is no surprise that every manager he has had to date has spoken glowingly of his tactical understanding and reading of the game.
On more than one occasion, Mount has been referred to as a ‘players player’ in the past. Shorthand for professional footballer speak for a player doing things us laypeople cannot possibly compute.
However, this season it is undoubted that he has found it difficult. His assist and goal numbers per 90 are way down – from 0.38 goals per 90 last term to 0.21 this. His assists per 90 have fallen from 0.38 to 0.15.
His influence in games has waned. While at the end of 2020/21 he was decisive against City, in the FA Cup last weekend he could barely get his foot on the ball.
Mount, a lieutenant of the Lampard and Tuchel years, appears to have struggled to adapt to his role under Potter.
With a new bumper contact on the horizon for one of the club’s most prized assets, one of Potter’s most pressing task is finding a role for him in the side. It is a wonder what Christopher Nkunku’s arrival might do to Mount’s previously insurmountable first team role.
Mason Mount appears to be suffering from a major crisis of confidence this season in an attacking sense
A bright spark for Chelsea in recent weeks. The Switzerland international has impressed in midfield, and was probably their man of the match against City in the Premier League last week.
It is a wonder, then, why he was only handed his first Chelsea appearance some three months after joining. His case just highlights the muddled thinking that has come to define their summer in 2022 and the decision to sack the manager who had overseen much of it just a week after the window closed.
His Premier League debut came on December 27.
Zakaria has taken some of the pressure off Kovacic in terms of building from deep in midfield. His ability to carry the ball has impressed, while the return of their fullbacks and attackers higher up will only aid his further development.
The best move for all last summer would perhaps have been a permanent return to Crystal Palace. Despite a few highlights this season, including a wonder-strike to win the game for Chelsea at Selhurst Park in one of Potter’s first games, his season has been marked by a tactical uncertainty that has stemmed from not having the team built around him.
His impressive season for Palace last year came as a result of him being a focal point. Such were his displays for the south London club, Chelsea refused to allow him to play against them in the FA Cup semi-final in April. It is hard to see them refusing such a request regarding the Gallagher that has largely been on display this season.
Tuchel struggled to find a role for him. When he did eventually relent and start him against Leicester, he was sent off in the first half for two quite naive yellow cards.
That day rather encapsulated his season thus far. Enthusiastic, but a hint of naivety and inexperience creeping in.
Perhaps the best move for Conor Gallagher – and all parties – last summer was a return to Selhurst Park
Signed from Aston Villa last summer, Chukwuemeka is certainly one for the future. He has shown his promise in glimpses, however.
Glimpses of his potential were evident against City in the Premier League. Unfortunate that his first season at Chelsea has coincided with one of the club’s worst in the last 20 years.
Another summer signing that sums up the ridiculous and ill-thought out thinking behind last summer’s transfer window. The former Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal man looked past his best when he was sent on his way by Mikel Arteta around 12 months ago, and little can have convinced Chelsea that he will rediscover his electrifying form again.
Potter is clearly not the biggest admirer of the Gabon international. Having brought him on for Raheem Sterling last week against City, he hauled him off after barely an hour of looking energetic but rarely threatening.
His one goal in the league so far, against Palace in September, rather sums up his stay so far. Chance his Chelsea nightmare could end this month with talk of a potential return to Barcelona.
The signing of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang late in the summer summed up the club’s muddled thinking
The Albanian’s ACL injury has ruled him out for the remainder of the season. Prior to that, he had looked to finally be breaking into Potter’s first choice side.
Just the one goal in the league this season, but he looked as though he carried much more of a threat than Aubameyang. At only 21, he has plenty of time to grow and improve as a player.
His form for Southampton last season, scoring nine goals in his 38 appearances for the club, encouraged Chelsea to keep hold of him this summer. That was despite reported interest from even Premier League rivals Arsenal and a host of other European sides.
Sterling’s time at Chelsea so far has proven something of a conundrum. While he tops the charts for goals scored across all competitions with six, he has proven ineffectual in a number of games.
He appears to have been a victim of Chelsea’s attack struggling to work, having joined from a club that have had one of the best oiled forward lines in modern football history. At just 27, Sterling is the right age to grow and develop as a Chelsea player, while maintaining his status as one of the squad’s leaders.
Potter’s wing-back experiment did not work, and it is telling that has not been tried post-World Cup.
Raheem Sterling is the club’s leading scorer this season – but with only six goals to his name he has somewhat underwhelmed
The Moroccan’s Chelsea dichotomy was summed up at the World Cup. Why was it, Chelsea supporters have queried, he was able to run and harry and press for his national side, but often can’t replicate that same application for Chelsea?
But it is not just his perceived lack of effort without the ball that has contributed to his poor season. Ziyech ranks 21st in the Chelsea squad this season for expected goals (xG) with 0.2 over his eight Premier League games. For an illustration of how damaging that has been for their attack so far, that is below the likes of Lewis Hall, Thiago Silva and even Azpilicueta.
It is fair to say that Ziyech is another who has shown it in glimpses since his arrival from Ajax, but nowhere near consistently enough. Having wanted to depart the club last summer, it seems likely questions over his future will crop up again in six months.
Chelsea supporters have been left concerned by the performances and application of Hakim Ziyech
It seems odd to write such about a player with a Champions League final winner to his name, but the German’s move to Chelsea has not worked out how all would have hoped.
The 23-year-old has scored just 28 goals for Chelsea over his nearly three years at the club. Surely not good enough of a return for a player who cost the best part of £90m. Potter’s reaction to Havertz’s giving away of a penalty at City last weekend told the stories of a lot of Chelsea supporters’ feelings towards Havertz. ‘F*** me’ he was filmed uttering to himself.
After Chelsea went 2-1 down against Fulham on Thursday, the German was seen slamming the floor in anger. His plethora of missed chances likely contributed to that anger.
His performances have come to encapsulate Potter’s Chelsea team in recent weeks. Somewhat weak and ineffectual. The player Chelsea thought they were getting in 2020 has seldom been seen this year.
Kai Havertz smashed the floor in frustration at the club’s latest poor result at Fulham this week
Much like team-mate Ziyech, Pulisic’s impressive World Cup had supporters scratching their heads over his otherwise indifferent form for his club. Unfortunately for him, he will remain sidelined for the next few months after sustaining an injury against City last week.
*Minimum six appearances this season to be rated.
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