Chelsea’s summer signing Wesley Fofana has been criticized for his role in Dinamo Zagreb’s surprise 1-0 win over the Blues in Tuesday night’s Champions League opener.
The west Londoners dominated possession in Croatia and created a host of half-chances in the early stages but were stabbed after just 13 minutes when Mislav Orsic broke free and scored the only goal of the game.
Fofana, a £75m acquisition from Leicester City, was the deepest defender but was absolutely roasted by Orsic, who headed the ball past the 21-year-old and sped for goal before tossing the ball over Kepa Arrizabalaga.
While manager Thomas Tuchel was unwilling to single out any individuals afterwards, BT Sport pundits Owen Hargreaves, Joleon Lescott and Rio Ferdinand all felt Fofana was at fault for the goal and showed a surprising lack of pace.
“They bought Fofana for that very reason, to squeeze the pitch, play high, he can [track] runs after and he’s fast,’ said Hargreaves.
“But he didn’t look overly explosive in that instance and I think Tuchel will be concerned that they concede soft goals if they dominate games.”
Lescott intervened: “Thiago Silva won’t let that happen. He doesn’t get involved in a race. He sits five or ten meters down and lets that sink in and then delays the attack.”
The former Manchester City defender went as far as to suggest that Fofana placed too much value on his own pace and ability to match Orsic’s pace but was found wanting.
He added: “I think so many defenders just want to show their attributes but they don’t respect the opponent and their attributes could be stronger than yours.”
Later in the show, Hargreaves revisited Fofana’s performance, saying, “If you had told me he wasn’t going to win that race, I would have said no chance.
“They just spent £70m on him because he’s aggressive and fast. I’m surprised he’s not coming back. Young kids want to rely on their athletics.”
His colleague Rio Ferdinand also added his own thoughts, saying: “Fofana can see his partner going towards the ball, what he has to keep in mind is the run. When he sees that, he must then identify, “Where is the space? Where do I cover myself now?” And notice his reaction: It’s so late.
“He has to soil him, shove him, whatever, you’re the last man. Or what I would do – and I would fight back as I suppose – I would have run away ages ago. I would have seen that run and there was no way I would allow him to get in behind me. He just doesn’t smell danger.
“But listen, it’s his first game at this level in the Champions League so you can’t really be too tough on him. But it’s something that will open his eyes and make him realize that he’s far from the finished article.”
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