Graham Potter appealed for patience after João Félix marred a promising debut with a rash red card and Chelsea’s slump continued during their 2-1 defeat at Fulham on Thursday night.
Emotions ran high after Carlos Vinícius’s late winner lifted Fulham into sixth place and deepened the gloom at Chelsea, whose travelling fans did not hide their frustration after watching their side fall to a third successive defeat in all competitions.
There were angry scenes in the away end at Craven Cottage when Potter’s players went down the tunnel without acknowledging them after full time. Chelsea, who are languishing in 10th place, had not played badly. But Félix’s dismissal at 1-1 stalled their momentum and increased the pressure on Potter, who faces a fight to convince an increasingly disgruntled fanbase that he is the right man for the job.
“I can also understand they are frustrated because we’ve lost,” Potter said after being asked about the supporters. “That is normal. I made sure I went over and clapped them because you appreciate the support. It’s not easy. We’re suffering and they are suffering. So we feel for them and feel their disappointment. I think it’s important we stick together and try to get through this tough period, because it really is a tough period.”
Potter defended Félix after the forward, who joined on an expensive loan from Atlético Madrid this week, was sent off for a wild lunge on Kenny Tete. “I don’t think it was an emotional one from João,” he said. “It was a miscontrol and then just a football action that can happen with the speed of the Premier League and a game of football at this level.
“There was no malice, he didn’t go in to hurt anybody, he didn’t lose his head. Sometimes these things happen and they’re against you and you have to suffer. And believe you me, we are suffering at the moment.”
Potter, whose injury problems increased when Denis Zakaria limped off, must lift his side before they host Crystal Palace on Sunday. He felt that individual errors had gifted Fulham victory.
“It’s really frustrating and incredibly challenging,” the former Brighton & Hove Albion manager said. “I feel for the supporters. I thought it was a relatively even game in the first half and we had a couple of good chances. We can do better in terms of our defending. João, to lose him for three matches is really disappointing.”
Potter, though, backed Félix to bounce back from his mistake. “All of them will be learning moments,” Chelsea’s head coach said. “João is a young player, a top player, you could see the quality he brought to the game. It was a little bit high but the referee then has a decision to make.”
Chelsea will attempt to back Potter by making further additions before the transfer window shuts. They are in talks over a deal for the Borussia Mönchengladbach striker Marcus Thuram, who is out of contract at the end of the season. Gladbach are open to cashing in on Thuram this month and the France international, who could decide to leave on a free in the summer, is giving serious consideration to Chelsea’s offer.
Marco Silva was delighted after Fulham’s first win over Chelsea since 2006. “A great, great night for the fans,” the manager said. “I think the last 15 to 20 years has been tough in all these derbies against Chelsea. Their superiority has been huge, so this is a great feeling.”