Wesley Fofana reflects on a turbulent first season at Chelsea

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Wesley Fofana has shared the ‘pain’ he feels as turbulent first season at Chelsea comes to a close in a recent interview.

The French defender was one of the marquee purchases made by new co-controlling owner Todd Boehly after completing his £70million move from Leicester during last summer transfer windows.

But his debut season has been one the club will hope to forget very quickly – unless they win their remaining three fixtures against Manchester City, Manchester United, and Newcastle, and their west London rivals Fulham suffer an almighty collapse, the Blues are set to finish in the bottom-half of the table for the first time in 27 years.

The 22-year-old suffered personally with spells on the sideline due to injury, whilst the club itself has seen four managers before the season’s close, an enormous influx of players that has left those in charge with a bloated and disatisfied squad, and a string of poor results that that has unsettled the teams and fans alike.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Fofana shared how ‘difficult’ his first season in west London has been, and gave an insight into the club’s dressing room.

‘It’s difficult for everybody because you see Chelsea in this position, and for sure everybody is not happy,’ the centre-back said. ‘But it’s football. Some seasons, you are good. Some seasons, you are bad.

‘Everybody is staying focused for next season now, to train more and push more to return to a high level.’

When Frank Lampard’s side travel to the Etihad on Sunday to face City, they may be stepping onto the pitch prepared to give the home side a guard of honour.

Pep Guardiola’s players can claim the league with victory over Chelsea, but if Arsenal lose against Nottingham Forest on Saturday, they will kick off with their third consecutive title in hand.

City’s late dominance this season puts Chelsea’s collapse into stark relief, with the Blues a staggering 42 points behind a side they toppled in the Champions League two years ago.

Their star man, Erling Haaland, has scored the same amount of Premier League goals as Chelsea have in the competition all season.

‘For sure, it’s painful,’ Fofana continued. ‘Chelsea is a big club in England and Europe. You see the points behind Man City, or Arsenal, and it’s difficult, because this club is the rival.’

For Fofana, the situation has come as a result of collective action rather than one single factor.

‘It’s difficult [to explain why the season has been difficult],’ he added. ‘New [owners] coming, new players coming, new coaches. In the Premier League, every team is strong and you don’t have time. You play in the Champions League as well, so it’s difficult.

‘I don’t know exactly why it’s a bad season but, for sure, it’s the players, it’s the club, it’s everybody. It’s not just the coaches coming and going, it’s not just the [owner], it’s not just the new players. It’s everybody. We are the same team. When it’s bad, everybody is bad.’

The former Leicester player has been unable to string together a run of consistent performances largely due to a knee problem, which kept him on the sidelines for two months when play restarted after the winter break.

Fofana admitted that the stop-start nature of his last two years – after suffering a bad leg-break at the start of his last season with the Foxes – has been difficult ‘for the mentality and the body’.

‘But I try to give everything for the team and the club. Then, after this, you have more experience. You know your body more and that’s good. You know that sometimes, when you want to push, push, push, just listen to your body and stay calm.

‘When I have a bad injury, I think of the moments when I was young and all of that. for sure, it’s bad, because I can’t play football for a long time, but I have seen worse situations, so I try to enjoy and stay cool because life is good for me now.’

Fofana was dropped from Saint-Etienne’s academy during his initial spell with the club as a child due, in part, to behavioural issues.

The decision changed him, and forced him to train ‘more, and more, and more’ until he was handed his place back.

In 2020, Fofana joined Leicester for a fee of around £36.5m, before catching the eye of then-coach Thomas Tuchel, who advocated for the player to join Chelsea on a seven-year contract.

‘I signed a long contract because I’m in the project,’ Fofana said. ‘I want to perform with Chelsea, I want to win everything with Chelsea. When I signed, this was my intention.

‘I signed for that because Chelsea, I know, is a big club. This side wins titles and trophies and I signed for that. For sure, I am here for a long time and I am very focused to win everything.’

One positive thing that Fofana has experienced at Stamford Bridge this season is learning from experienced role models: Lampard, his coach, and Thiago Silva, the defensive general who at 38 remains valued member of Chelsea’s starting XI.

‘It’s crazy because I remember I played on the PlayStation with Lampard and now he is my manager. I listen to everything. I learn so much because this guy won everything in his career.

‘When you see Thiago Silva, you see the career, it’s incredible. You learn on the pitch and after the training, you see the movement, the life and you say, ‘OK, I know why he is here.’

‘You learn so much from him and the same for [Kalidou] Koulibaly. When you see the career, you learn, because this guy is very professional and very focused on football.

Silva recently lifted his fans’ spirits when his wife Belle Silva snuffed out reports that the Brazil international was advocating for a return to his boyhood club Fluminense.

Belle took to Instagram live to share that her family ‘are blue, and we are Chelsea, and we are staying’ after Silva had appeared to post a goodbye message after the team’s 2-2 draw against Nottingham Forest.

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