Wesley Fofana

Wesley Fofana at Chelsea: Recognized world-class potential at Leicester suits Thomas Tuchel’s defense perfectly

Wesley Fofana recalls his first training session at Leicester City. Jamie Vardy lunged at him with both feet. It was his welcome to English football, but the young defender quickly made himself at home.

When injured last season, Brendan Rodgers compared his absence to Liverpool losing Virgil van Dijk. His progress has been so rapid that former Chelsea defender and World Cup winner Frank Leboeuf has compared his rise to that of Kylian Mbappe.

Jonny Evans, his partner in central defense at Leicester, even advised him to become one of the best defenders in the world after watching him face Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Speaking to Rodgers about Fofana in April, he was also convinced.

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Fofana’s best Premier League bits for Leicester City

“He’s an absolutely phenomenal talent, this young man,” he said. sky sports. “He’s a star in the making. Raw talent, anticipation for a defender. He’s going to be an absolute elite player.” Now 21 years old, Fofana is ready to show that he is already one.

The £70million move to Chelsea will make the uncapped Frenchman one of the most expensive defenders in the game’s history. The fee reflects his level of performance for Leicester, but it also reveals how highly Thomas Tuchel feels need him.

Chelsea’s defensive record since the German’s arrival at the club has been largely impressive, keeping as many clean sheets as Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. Even Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City have conceded just two less than Chelsea since Tuchel’s arrival.

But Antonio Rudiger’s departure to Real Madrid was a huge loss. It is not only its quality but more precisely its rhythm. Rudiger was clocked as the fastest player in the Premier League last season – just ahead of Mohamed Salah and Adama Traore.

Kalidou Koulibaly, 31, can replicate Rudiger’s presence, but alongside Thiago Silva, 37, it means Chelsea need to be aware of the makeup of that back line. This partly explains why Tuchel sometimes wanted Reece James there rather than Cesar Azpilicueta.

No other Chelsea defender came close to Rudiger’s top speed of 36.7 kilometers per hour last season. Trevoh Chalobah was closest at 33.2 kilometers per hour. But Fofana changes that. His top speed for Leicester last season was 34.5 kilometers per hour.

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That makes him one of the fastest defenders in the Premier League and it has consequences. This allows his team to play differently. “He let us attack, stopped the counter-attacks,” said James Maddison after beating PSV last season.

Speaking to Rodgers at the Leicester training ground the day after that European win, he explained the impact Fofana’s style of play has had on his team. They were defending higher and the gaps were smaller. “Rhythm does that,” he said sky sports.

“The size of the pitch is always dictated by your centre-halves and full-backs.” If the defense is too deep, concerned with this ball on top, it undermines everything. “You can be up there pressing, but if they’re sitting on the halfway line, the pitch is too big.”

He added: “It’s a trait we like to have in the team. We ask them to defend forward. It’s about anticipating, closing the field, supporting attacks. You can’t not always score with the first pass, but you have to get it back and counter-press when you lose it.”

Wesley Fofana played just 630 minutes in the Premier League last season due to injury but, every 90 minutes, the centre-back ranked fifth in the league in recoveries in the defensive third and 15th in recoveries. successful passes.

This ability to intercept, to get out of the back line to regain the ball, is a quality highly valued by the best teams. They want a defender who can run towards his own goal but also impact the game the other way with that controlled aggression.

Add Fofana’s aerial ability through a jump that allows him to overtake taller opponents. Note the ball skills that ensure he is comfortable in possession. That’s why Leicester looked such a different team in his absence during the first half of last season.

“Any team would miss him,” Rodgers said sky sports.

“You have to be honest and open enough to admit that you’re going to miss someone of that ability. Of course it’s going to hamper performance. There’s nothing rocket science about that. the level of your game.”

That’s Leicester’s problem now. With the help of Evans on the pitch and Kolo Toure off the pitch, the boy nicknamed ‘Little Wes’ due to title-winning captain Wes Morgan’s presence at the club has become a man in the Midlands. But they had to know that it might be fleeting.

The circumstances of Fofana’s arrival were controversial. Saint-Etienne were unwilling to sell but the player pushed for the move, with his family suffering personal abuse as a result. He was determined then and determined now. All that matters is the next step.

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Panel discusses whether Fofana can improve Chelsea’s defense

For Fofana, that means Chelsea. He was 11 when his hero Didier Drogba won the Champions League with the club in 2012. Following that same path, he is determined to secure a place in Didier Deschamps’ France squad for the World Cup later this year.

Chelsea will benefit from that ambition, just as they will benefit from the tactical flexibility that Rodgers instilled in him. Fofana is a good fit on the right side of a back three but he can also play as one of two centre-backs. This is perhaps the only aspect that remains to be improved.

“We just have to be careful with him,” Rodgers said in April. “He’s still learning some aspects of the game, tactically. We have to remember how young he is.” When his £70m move is complete, it might be time to look at him another way. How good could Wesley Fofana still get?



Wesley Fofana at Chelsea: Recognized world-class potential at Leicester suits Thomas Tuchel’s defense perfectly

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