Chelsea may have lost to Dortmund on Wednesday, but this was one of their better performances under Graham Potter. The Blues ripped off 21 shots for an xG of 2.13 compared to Dortmund's 1.41, even turning up the heat to create plenty of chances in the second half. But running into goalkeeper Gregor Kobel in form, the only number that matters is the 1-0 advantage to Dortmund on the score sheet ahead of next month's second leg. Most teams would be able to take a moral victory from this performance but with Chelsea's recent form, do moral victories under Potter matter anymore?
He was expected to have growing pains in the role but after being appointed in September, Potter has had time to instill some of his ideas in the squad. The board has also backed him heavily in the transfer market but at some point returns are also expected on that investment. On one hand, the fact that Joao Felix hit the post twice will give them confidence in the second leg but the Black and Yellow also didn't have to get out of first gear for much of the match outside of Karim Adeyemi's counterattack goal and Kobel's defense.
Finding new ways to not put the ball in the back of the net is a common issue for Chelsea and one that is only capitalized by their limited choices in registering their new signings for Champions League play. Only Enzo Fernandez, Joao Felix, and Mykailo Mudryk were registered for the completion when David Dataro Fofana has been their only new signing that is somewhat of a true number nine. Chelsea have scored just five goals in their last nine games, failing to record multiple goals in a game even once in 2023.
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Forfana is raw at only 20 but throwing him into the game late to replace Kai Havertz when Dortmund's defense was allowing chances left and right but wasn't an option. That's not Potter's fault that Chelsea made eight winter signings but could only register three for Champions League play but it does show the mixed priorities of the board that are supposedly backing Potter during his struggles so far.
It would be different if not scoring goals was a new issue for Potter or even Chelsea but the constant has been Kai Havertz's presence in the attack. Even Hakim Zyech's inclusion after he was almost sold to PSG has been a bit of a head-scratcher but for as much depth as Chelsea has in some areas, it's a thin squad where it matters most.
Even their best performer, Fernandez, likely should've taken a tactical foul on Adeyemi's goal knowing that Mudryk was beaten by the run. Now they face an uphill battle in the second leg.
Mudryk has had his flashes but he only took one shot and created two chances in the match while failing to make an impact. It feels like Chelsea are playing a simulation game where it's okay that the talent doesn't really fit but it's expected to win matches due to having an advantage over true teams. Instead, it has led to a team that has just one goal in the last 386 minutes.
There are real financial implications for the club if they can't get past Dortmund in the round of 16, which only get worse when it's considered that it is also unlikely the club qualify for Champions League through the league. If they can't bring in enough money to cover all the additions to the team, what would it mean for Potter's chances to lead the club in the future?
Moral victories only work for teams that are performing well while in Chelsea's case, they can make morale worse around the squad. Players can feel like they should've won each of their last four matches but in reality, they only got three points from those and don't have someone they can play to give Havertz a physical and mental break. It's up to Potter to push his squad through this but the next few months might not be kind to them. Southampton is up next and while it should be an easy match, the Saints are fighting for their Premier League lives and will give Chelsea trouble if the Blues can't score goals.
Potter likely won't be let go before the home leg versus Dortmund on March 7th, but if the Blues can't score goals between now and then, they could go crashing out.