Chelsea short-term successes show they remain a club on mixed wavelengths


Graham Potter punched the air at full-time following his side's narrow 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace. It seemed a fair reaction, given the pressure cooker that is Chelsea at the moment following a winless 2023 up to now.

A worsening injury crisis, big money deals and even bigger contracts have been thrown into a boiling, bubbling pot of new ownership, struggling coach and discontented fans.

Saturday's win saw all of these issues unfold and more in a bizarre, frustrating and nervous afternoon of football.

The late, great Gianluca Vialli was honoured with a montage of his finest moments and a minute's applause before the game, with his son and club legends venturing onto the pitch to pay tribute. The current Chelsea players, meanwhile, wore shirts bearing the Italian's name before kick-off.

Then, after the on-pitch action had begun, murmurs began: Chelsea had announced the signing of Mykhailo Mudryk 20 minutes into the match.

It must go down as one of the most perplexing and strangely-handled deals of all time, given the “unique” choices made by Chelsea's social media team before the signing was actually confirmed. The transfer was fittingly finalised by a mid-game Twitter announcement.

The new arrival from Ukraine would have his moment in front of the fans, as Chelsea and Palace limped into the half-time break scoreless. Mudryk, the €100m man, took to the pitch during the interval to a somewhat muted welcome. Light applause and few cheers met what Todd Boehly would have hoped would have been the defining moment of the afternoon, but supporters had just watched their side struggle against Palace for most of the previous 45 minutes.

Though the breakthrough eventually arrived through one of their existing forwards, Kai Havertz, the Blues could have made the game safe earlier. Chelsea, though, didn't care - as manager Graham Potter pointed out after the game: “I'd be lying if I said I wasn't relieved”, he noted.

Perhaps less heartening for fans was the news that Denis Zakaria, one of very few bright sparks for Chelsea in recent weeks, is out for a month, likely to miss crucial ties with Liverpool, Fulham and West Ham.

Kepa meanwhile lived up to his reputation as one of the most confusing goalkeepers in the league, making a few spectacular stops but remaining unconvincing when attempting to command his penalty area.

Lewis Hall limped off here, too, with the left-back replaced by centre-half Kalidou Koulibaly - further highlighting Graham Potter's distrust in Marc Cucurella's defensive abilities.

This is part of the problem for Potter: the players he has fit, he seemingly doesn't trust. Koulibaly was left out because of match-load, according to the boss, but his replacement Benoit Badiashile was thrust into a full 98 minutes of Premier League action without having made so much as a cameo off the bench for the Blues beforehand, suggesting the Koulibaly may no longer be a first-choice starting option.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, too, looks less and less likely to impact games as weeks go on, in a side that desperately needs a striker of his 2018-ilk.

Potter has a unique situation on his hands. Injury-shaped holes in the group are yet to be filled by a Boehly-driven spending spree that has looked to address a squad which needs a major overhaul.

Victory over Palace and a big-money signing may superficially look to provide Potter with short-term relief, but the injury list keeps growing, the money keeps flowing and the performances are certainly not improving. Crucial weeks lie ahead for the Blues.