According to the ever-reliable Fabrizio Romano, it’s HERE WE GO and Chelsea have reached an agreement for Leicester City’s Wesley Fofana in a deal reaching 75 million pounds if all the add-on clauses are triggered.
It’s a huge statement of intent by the new Chelsea owners with Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali being heavily involved in the negotiations with Leicester City to sign Fofana after the player was considered “untouchable” by the Foxes in the early parts of the window. Thomas Tuchel had the 21-year-old on top of his wish list and decided to pull out of the negotiations for Sevilla’s Jules Kounde in favour of a move for his national teammate Fofana.
Let’s analyze how Fofana fits into Tuchel’s side and what qualities does he add to the Chelsea backline
Fofana joined Leicester City from French outfit Saint-Etienne in the January transfer window of the 19/20 season. Since then the Marseille born defender has been a mainstay in the Foxes’ squad with Brenden Rodgers partnering him alongside of Caglar Soyuncu. At 6 ½ feet, Fofana isn’t the tallest of defenders but has the aerial presence to win the aerial duels. He is a robust defender whose tactical awareness and intelligent defensive actions make him a very unique defender.
The French center-back has averaged 70.67 passes completed per 90 which is amongst the top 11% in the league this season, 5.22 progressive carries per 90 which puts him in the top 7% amongst defenders and 2.44 interceptions per 90 in two full 90 minute appearances for the Foxes.
Where will we watch Wesley Fofana play for the Blues this season?
Right Center Back
The departure of Andreas Christensen has left Tuchel with only two defenders to play on the right-hand side of his back 3; Cesar Azpilicueta and Trevoh Chalobah. Fofana has played as a right-sided center-back for Leicester throughout his time with them and will automatically be the first-choice defender for Tuchel. This would allow Reece James to play in his usual wingback role as the English defender played in the same position for the last 3 games.
Tuchel could also look to revert to a back 4 wherein Fofana can play either alongside Kalidou Koulibaly/Thiago Silva in a defensive partnership. This tactical switch was seen in the game against Tottenham Hotspur wherein the Blues switched to a back 4 when attacking and completely outplayed their North London rivals.
Another dimension of Fofana’s game which would help Chelsea in the RCB position is that he isn’t shy of carrying the ball into the final third whenever an opportunity arises to cause numerical overloads in the center of the pitch against a low block side. Chelsea have struggled to break down teams who tend to defend deep and Fofana could be the player who helps them in such a situation as the French center-back has an eye for a pass too.
The 21-year-old can be a quality option for Tuchel to rely on as Reece James’ backup this season. Azpilicueta is a solid defensive option for the same role but lacks the pace and intensity to play in the right-back position. Fofana has played as a right back for Leicester when the Foxes missed Ricardo Periera last season when he was out with an ACL injury.
We could also see a 4-4-2 system which Tuchel deployed during his time at Paris-Saint Germain wherein a back 4 of Cucurella/Chilwell, Koulibaly, Thiago Silva, Fofana is joined by Reece James as a right-sided winger to provide extra defensive solidity and more attacking threat on the wings.
Thiago Silva’s long-term replacement
Thiago Silva will be turning 38 this year and looks to be edging closer to retirement. The Brazilian has been a rock at the back for the Blues even though he is the oldest player on the pitch. Having joined for free from PSG in the summer of the 20/21 season, the 37-year-old has been the best defender at the club and been a leader in the backline. His leadership skills and experience has helped Chelsea immensely throughout his time at the West London club and his absence in the long term could be a huge loss for Tuchel’s side.
Wesley Fofana isn’t a leader yet but could turn into one playing alongside two leaders in the likes of Thiago Silva and Kalidou Koulibaly. The Frenchman will be fortunate enough to learn the trades of the game alongside two of the best defenders in Europe and develop into a future superstar for the Blues
The 75 million pound price tag is certainly very expensive for a 21-year-old defender who hasn’t played at a club as big as Chelsea. The Chelsea fans will have to be patient with their new signing. If developed right and nurtured, sky is the limit for the Frenchman who has ambitions of making it into the French national side for the World Cup in December. It does look like it is a panic buy from the new owners who want to show that they will invest heavily in the first team squad taking their spending to more than 200 million pounds this summer.