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  • By Alessandro Schiavone

Chelsea 1-0 Fulham: Three things we learned from Broja flop to Enzo's renaissance


By Alessandro Schiavone at Stamford Bridge


Chelsea 1-0 Fulham

Goal: A penalty by Palmer (C)  



What did we learn about Chelsea in their hard-fought 1-0 win over Fulham yesterday?


It took a while but Chelsea are on the way up


Chelsea may not be Oscar winners yet but three wins on the bounce indicate that Mauricio Pochettino's side are finally on the way up after alternating between good days in the office and fiascos earlier this season. It's true that Crystal Palace, Luton Town and Fulham are hardly at the level of Real Madrid, Inter Milan and Man City. But that doesn't detract from Chelsea's improvements on the mentality and consistency levels, showing that they can win ugly and weather storms. They proved that the wins over the Eagles and the Hatters were by no mean flukes. As Agatha Christie would put it "three pieces of evidence" are never random or chance. There's clearly still some work to be done when it comes to turning yesterday's sterile possession into something tangible. The Blues have to overturn a 1-0 deficit against a probably deep-sitting Middlesbrough side trying to do the damage on the counter to reach the Carabao Cup final. And to steer clear of an embarrassment they have to improve their final ball and be more efficient between the lines in the final third. And unlike at the Riverside Stadium, take their chances... which AGAIN they failed to do yesterday as they relied on a penalty to break down the brave Cottagers. The Champions League is still nine points away hence winning England's third most prestigious trophy represents their best chance of making it a successfully transitional season. Chelsea fans should not look too far ahead though and enjoy the moment instead. And things are undeniably looking much better since they lost to Wolverhampton on Christmas Eve.


Enzo Fernandez is playing like in Qatar


It took a year but Enzo Fernandez is finally showing why Todd Boehly's club decided to part with £107 to get him from Benfica last January. Unsurprisingly that inflated price was pushed up by him being a fresh World Cup winner with Argentina. Thus expectations were always going to rise and adaptation time short. The former River Plate midfielder is still no Andrès Iniesta, Andrea Pirlo or Cesc Fabregas and probably never will be. But if he keeps it up he has all the qualities to turn into a Chelsea legend. He can be the Jon Obi Mikel of Chelsea's (future?) golden era. Against Fulham, he showed that he has that progressive passing side in his game that is the envy of many midfielders. He takes in information and processes it quicker than others and always asks for the ball between the lines or in the pockets where he can do the damage. Like Chelsea as a club, he is still untapped potential. His detractors are pointing to an at-times inaccuracy on the ball and questionable decision-making. Albeit a calculated one, he was a high-risk gamble who is finally justifying that whopping price tag. And his blossoming form is giving Chelsea renewed hope of a late European push in the second part of the season.


Broja... isn't the answer to the question


Armando Broja once again failed to deconstruct the theory that he's not good enough to lead the line for Chelsea. Well, not many are to fill the boots of Didier Drogba or Diego Costa. Over the years even bigger names like Andriy Shevchenko, Gonzalo Higuain, Alvaro Morata and Alexandre Pato failed to make the grade in Fulham Broadway. But the excuse that Broja is young doesn't stand up. He turns 23 in September and has already played 36 times for the club. And the three goals he scored is hardly cause for optimism. Yesterday's display proved a head-scratcher again. When he planted a header wide from Fernandez's cross after 20 minutes, most Chelsea fans rolled their eyes. Because it has happened too often. As the game wore on, he kept battling but was easily dispossessed by Palhinha and failed to connect with a good cross in by Malo Gusto in the second-half which epitomised his lack of confidence right now. It's true that Chelsea's final ball was sub-standard but Broja's at-times wrong movement doesn't help. The UK-born Albanian striker put his nose to the grindstone off the ball but there's so much fine-tuning to be made in front of goal if he is to hack it at the highest level. Chelsea are kind of forced to play him as they don't have many irons in the fire with Christopher Nkunku more on the treatment table than out on the grass right now. And the ball is in Broja's court if he wants to prevent Chelsea from going all-in for a top striker such as Dusan Vlahovic or Victor Osimhen which would spell the end of his first-team days. Would he play if Nkunku was match-fit and if one of those two Serie A stars were to join Chelsea one day? You know the answer... which he isn't.


Line-ups


Chelsea


28 Petrovic- 2 Disasi- 6 T.Silva- 7 Sterling- 8 Enzo- 19 Broja- 20 Palmer- 23 Gallagher- 25 Caicedo- 26 Colwill- 27 Gusto



Fulham


17 Leno- 2 Tete- 4 Tosin- 7 Jimenez-8 Wilson- 10 Cairney- 18 Pereira- 20 Willian- 26 Palhinha- 31 Diop-33 Robinson

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