EPL

Fernandez finding his feet, Mudryk's magic yet to show and Joao Felix's flashes: Grading Chelsea's January signings

By Sports Desk March 17, 2023

It wasn't too long ago that it all looked rather bleak for Graham Potter.

Chelsea had splashed the cash in January, breaking the Premier League's record transfer fee and handing out seven and eight-year deals to some of Europe's hottest prospects.

Yet that expenditure did not have the desired immediate effect, with the Blues managing just one victory between the start of January and the end of February.

March, however, has heralded the shoots of recovery, and while Chelsea remain 10th in the top flight ahead of hosting relegation-threatened Everton on Saturday, they have won their last three games, which included progressing past Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.

The pressure seems to have eased on Potter, and Chelsea will now focus on securing a European place for next season – which, given their extraordinary spend, will be the least Todd Boehly and Co. will expect.

But just how are each of Chelsea's mid-season additions getting on?

Benoit Badiashile (Grade: B)

The first through the door at Stamford Bridge in January, Badiashile arrived from Monaco in a deal reportedly in the region of €38million (£33.7m).

A powerful, left-sided centre-back, Badiashile was a regular for Monaco and at 21, still has a long career ahead of him. He has made seven league appearances since his switch to England, starting six of those games, though he was not included in the Blues' Champions League squad.

Joao Felix (Grade: B)

Joao Felix's relationship with Diego Simeone had reportedly becoming strained over the first half of the season, and Atletico Madrid's record signing has been given a chance to rediscover his spark in England.

Whether or not this loan deal will be made permanent remains to be seen, but the Portugal forward has certainly shown flashes of his immense talent, even if that has not always turned into goals. A promising debut was marred by a red card after a reckless challenge on Fulham's Kenny Tete, which saw Joao Felix banned for three matches, but he has made eight appearances since he returned, starting each one.

Only Kai Havertz has registered more expected goals (xG) than Joao Felix's 3.83 in Chelsea's squad in that time, and the data shows the former Benfica prodigy has been unfortunate with his finishing, scoring once from an expected goals on target (xGOT) figure of 2.95. Essentially, based on the quality of his attempts, he would be anticipated to be on three goals already, while he has also hit the woodwork on three occasions.

 

David Datro Fofana (Grade: C)

For all Chelsea's business, they did not sign an out-and-out proven striker in the January window. Fofana is arguably the best fit for the position of the players they brought in, but the 20-year-old Ivory Coast international is extremely raw.

Fofana scored 15 Eliteserien goals in 2022 for Molde, but the Premier League is a world away than Norway's top tier. He has made three appearances for the Blues, one in the FA Cup and two in the league. His only start did not go according to plan, however, as he was taken off at half-time in a 1-0 home loss to lowly Southampton. Fofana played two key passes and also managed two shots, but he has not played a senior game since that defeat on February 18. 

Andrey Santos (Grade: N/A)

Another one for the future, Santos has just turned 18. He's back playing on loan for Vasco da Gama in Brazil, where he came through the ranks and made his debut at the age of 16.

Mykhaylo Mudryk (Grade: C)

Chelsea won the tussle for Ukraine international Mudryk, getting one over on league leaders Arsenal in the process. However, paying a fee that could reach £89m (€100m) means the expectations are sky-high.

An impressive cameo against Liverpool was followed up by a start against Fulham, yet the 22-year-old was subbed off at half-time having failed to have a shot, create a chance or attempt a cross.

 

Mudryk has been in and out of Potter's starting XI and is yet to score, though he did provide his first assist with a header back to Mateo Kovacic in a 3-1 win over Leicester City last week. Chelsea fans will have to be patient but there's a reason the winger was so highly sought after while at Shakhtar Donetsk.

Noni Madueke (Grade: C)

Just five days after Mudryk's arrival, Chelsea decided to sign another winger. Madueke had seemed set to fill the Cody Gakpo void at PSV following the Netherlands international's move to Liverpool, yet the Blues decided they needed to bolster their forward options.

Like Badiashile and Fofana, Madueke was not listed in Chelsea's Champions League squad, so he is only an option in the Premier League for now. He has made four appearances and two starts, creating five goalscoring opportunities.

Madueke has plenty of potential but it does seem he might have been better served staying at PSV for more game time.

Malo Gusto (Grade: N/A)

Like Santos, full-back Gusto is back on loan at the club he was signed from, Lyon, who Chelsea paid a reported £26m (€29.7m) towards the end of the transfer window. The 19-year-old was a regular in Ligue 1 until sustaining a thigh muscle injury in early February, and he is yet to return to action.

Enzo Fernandez (Grade: B+)

The cherry on top of Chelsea's hugely expensive cake came on deadline day, as they smashed the British transfer record to sign World Cup-winning midfielder Fernandez from Benfica for a cool £106.7m (€120m).

Fernandez was crucial to Argentina's success in Qatar but only had half a season in Europe under his belt, with the 22-year-old having only joined Benfica from River Plate last year.

 

He has started all eight of the matches he has been available for and has shown some excellence in possession – a sublime cross for Joao Felix against West Ham and an exquisite, chipped pass for Kai Havertz to latch onto against Leicester have both resulted in assists.

Fernandez has already attempted 264 more passes than any other Chelsea player since his debut (623) and has been involved in the most open play shot-ending sequences (24), while his 96 duels and 44 duels won are also team-highs in that time. 

A goal has so far evaded Fernandez and Karim Adeyemi got the better of him too easily for Dortmund's winner in the first leg of the Champions League last-16 tie last month, but it's been a strong start.

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