If the challenge to bring Enzo Fernandez to Chelsea become somewhat of a saga that dragged out from December until the verge of February, the time it took for the midfielder to make Graham Potter's starting XI seemed to be fast forward. The Argentinian trained for the first time on Thursday amid the race to get his documentation confirmed and, like Joao Felix, found that was enough to head straight into Chelsea's lineup.
After plenty of work to get the deal done Behdad Eghbali and Todd Boehly were present at Stamford Bridge to check out their investment, and if the team's performance wasn't outstanding, they certainly would have remained impressed with the World Cup winner. Fernandez completed 90 minutes on his debut and has possibly already made the jersey his own.
football.london took a look at how the Premier League's most expensive player did on his first outing in the division.
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Fernandez quickly asserted himself deep in Chelsea's midfield with Mason Mount and Conor Gallagher in more advanced roles. The opening stages saw a slow start in terms of the £106.7million signings' involvement but he was soon nipping in at the toes of Aleksandar Mitrovic on the halfway line to put the ball out for a throw-in. Quickly after this moment, Fernandez combined well with Gallagher to hound the ball from the Serbian striker near his own box.
The 10th minute saw the former Benfica star display his aerial prowess as showed authority to win a header in his own box to clear Chelsea's lines. The 22-year-old hasn't been at Chelsea long but has already been handed among the more difficult tasks as he was the figure to mark Mitrovic from corners.
Fernandez was well and truly up for the challenge too. On one occasion he patrolled the edge of the 18-yard box and nudged his foe until he was outside of it before the Fulham forward attempted to battle back. Mitrovic first tried to bully Fernandez back before failing and attempting to win a penalty instead by slumping to the ground following an enforced grapple.
Chelsea's ace began to find his rhythm and cleared the ball up well from Andreas Pereira's feet on the halfway mark to again show his timing and judgement.
Chelsea started to find more structured build up play which saw Fernandez drop between Silva and Badiashile as the Argentina international looked to make himself an option no matter where the ball was on the pitch. The River Plate product would show to collect the ball well under pressure in his own box and played the ball on the turn to help Chelsea escape, and prove his dynamism. Fernandez further showed some impressive forward passing as he navigated intricate pockets of space.
The young midfielder continued to looked right at home at the base of Chelsea's midfield and displayed his ability to connect defence and midfield. He did deliver some wayward passes to the wings during this period however, though that should not take away from the pass he made to find Mason Mount on his way into Fulham's box to provide Kai Havertz with a good chance.
It was impressive half from the new signing who made more tackles (five) than anybody else on the pitch, while winning possession nine times in addition to seven duels - again more than the other 21 players.
Fernandez showed his ability to pressure the opposition higher up the pitch in some moments as Chelsea attempted to establish themselves in the second period. His willingness to engage was exposed momentarily by one of Fulham's better performers in Joao Palhinha however, as the Cottagers ace turned him in successive movements.
The Argentina international showed some of his character during the second period as he went out of his way to ensure he could slap hands with Reece James as he headed off to be replaced by Cesar Azpilicueta. The wingback had made sure to embrace Fernandez as the teams found their place ahead of kick off. Hopefully a potent combination is on its way.
Kept the ball ticking in the centre of the pitch but saw a poor pass intercepted to ultimately provide Mitrovic an opportunity that was saved by Kepa Arrizabalaga. Nevertheless remained a good presence in encouraging his teammates.
Fulham's midfield of Andreas Pereira and Harrison Reed pulled wider from his central position leaving a more difficult job for Fernandez to cover the ground required but he still did so well.
The 72nd minute saw his first shot and it wasn't a bad one from range. Fernandez's strike looked to inject some aggression back in to Chelsea's play but it just swerved wide at the corner where the post and crossbar meet.
Fernandez showed his ability to hold onto the ball for a more extended period when placed under pressure from Harrison Reed and was ultimately able to recycle Chelsea's possession with little in the way of options around him.
While it was his debut, he was undaunted to take some authority in the match and was not afraid to takeover the game in the dying minutes. He continually found possession from his defence and midfield teammates as the clock ticked down and looked to release Ben Chilwell down the wing. Again, he even won a header against Mitrovic to deny Fulham progression up the pitch. His physicality was again on display against Carlos Vinicius, as he was able to hold the forward off to scrape the ball away in stoppage time.
Fernandez delivered a very promising performance and it's difficult to argue with Potter's assessment that he handled the occasion 'magnificently'. There's little doubting there's more to come as the midfielder grows more accustomed to his teammates but he proved he has value, even in isolation.
His presence added a layer of security that meshed well with Thiago Silva and Benoit Badiashile that made Chelsea appear more controlled than they have often done this season, despite an already impressive defensive record.
Chelsea's new addition made more tackles than anyone else on the pitch, only Badiashile made more clearances among his Chelsea teammates and he produced six accurate long balls from seven attempts while also being able to draw fouls as only Badiashile and Silva recorded more touches.
Not a bad first impression at all.
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