Chelsea news – Enzo Fernandez marked his return from injury with an 87-minute performance which saw him handed a new role

Enzo Fernandez has become an important player under Mauricio Pochettino during the latter’s first few months at Chelsea. The Argentine World Cup winner was signed in January 2023 as a box-to-box midfielder but injuries saw him utilised in a deeper role throughout the second half of the 2022/23 season.

Over the summer, the Blues signed Moises Caicedo to occupy that role with the aim of unleashing Fernandez to impact proceedings further up the pitch. More injuries saw that plan struggle to be put into action consistently, however an excellent midfield balance had been struck in recent weeks.

With Caicedo in the deepest role, Fernandez and Conor Gallagher are given license to get forward from midfield with the latter practically alongside Cole Palmer in attack against Arsenal last month. Unfortunately, that flow was disrupted in the weekend defeat to Brentford with Fernandez missing out entirely with a minor muscular injury.

Ahead of the Blackburn cup tie, he was spotted back in training and he then played 87 minutes in the 2-0 victory. His return from a one-game absence was also marked with a first for Fernandez as he was given the captain’s armband for a short period off the game with club captain James subbed off just after the hour mark and vice-captain Ben Chilwell still out injured.

Pochettino had to appoint a new captain at the start of the season, although injuries to James and Chilwell saw Gallagher given the armband to the surprise of many. Thiago Silva and Fernandez, given their experience and importance to the team, respectively, felt like obvious replacements, however Pochettino explained his reasoning behind the decision in late September.

“I explain the truth like always,” he said when asked to clarify his captain replacement decisions. “For me, it was nominating Reece, I think is the perfect captain of course and then an English player with experience is Chilly. And then I think Thiago is because of experience; today is his birthday, 39, and I think he is an experienced player that doesn’t need the armband and then I think it’s important to build something for the future. Not only the present but the future.

“He is there and captain is not only to put the armband on your arm. To clarify, I think maybe it was Thiago give to Enzo but Enzo is still struggling with his English. If we need to communicate with the referee and everything I think Conor can perfectly do the job and for me I prefer Conor than Enzo because I think Conor can speak normally, English. I think Enzo is still not ready to be a captain. It is not only because of character or personality or profile.

“It’s about you need to communicate with the people and if you don’t manage still the language properly you cannot be captain no? I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong but it’s my opinion.” Despite Pochettino’s claim, Gallagher played the full game with Fernandez the one to be made captain for a brief period, suggesting a quick decision was made on the pitch and that the 22-year-old is high up in the pecking order.

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