Enzo Fernandez made a notable comeback from his injury by delivering an 87-minute performance in which he assumed a fresh and significant role on the field.
Mauricio Pochettino, during his initial months as Chelsea’s manager, has recognized the increasing importance of Enzo Fernandez in the squad. The acquisition of the Argentine World Cup winner in January 2023 was primarily for the role of a box-to-box midfielder. However, due to various injuries, he had to adapt to a deeper position during the latter part of the 2022/23 season.
During the summer transfer window, the Blues made a significant signing in Moises Caicedo, aiming to utilize him in the deepest midfield role. This strategic move was intended to free up Fernandez to contribute more substantially in the attacking areas of the pitch. However, recurring injuries hindered the consistent execution of this plan. Despite these challenges, a noteworthy balance in the midfield had been established in recent weeks.
With Moises Caicedo positioned in the deeper role, Enzo Fernandez and Conor Gallagher were granted the freedom to advance from the midfield, with Gallagher even practically joining Cole Palmer in the attack during the recent match against Arsenal. Unfortunately, this fluidity was disrupted in the weekend fixture against Brentford, with Fernandez being sidelined entirely due to a minor muscular injury.
Prior to the Carabao Cup match against Blackburn, Fernandez had returned to training, and he subsequently played 87 minutes in Chelsea’s 2-0 victory. His comeback from a one-game absence was further marked by a significant development: he was entrusted with the captain’s armband for a brief period during the game. This decision was prompted by the substitution of club captain James just after the one-hour mark and the continued absence of vice-captain Ben Chilwell due to injury.
At the start of the season, Pochettino had been compelled to designate a new captain due to injuries to James and Chilwell. Surprisingly, Gallagher was chosen as captain, a decision that raised eyebrows among many. Given their experience and pivotal roles within the team, Thiago Silva and Fernandez seemed to be the more obvious candidates. Pochettino clarified his reasoning behind this decision in late September.
He stated, “I explain the truth like always. For me, nominating Reece as captain was the right choice, I believe he is the perfect captain, and an experienced English player, Chilly, is the vice-captain. As for Thiago, it’s because of his experience; today is his 39th birthday, and I think he is an experienced player who doesn’t need the armband. I believe it’s important to build something for the future, not just for the present, but for the future. He is there, and being a captain is not just about wearing the armband on your arm.”
To further elaborate, Pochettino noted, “I think maybe it was Thiago who wanted to give the armband to Enzo, but Enzo is still struggling with his English. If we need to communicate with the referee and everything, I think Conor can do the job perfectly, as he can communicate in English. I believe Enzo is not yet ready to be a captain. It’s not just about character, personality, or profile. It’s also about the need to communicate effectively with others. If you haven’t mastered the language properly, you can’t be a captain, can you? I’m not sure, but that’s my opinion.”
Despite Pochettino’s explanation, it was Gallagher who played the entire game, while Fernandez was given the captain’s armband for a brief period, suggesting that a swift decision was made on the pitch, emphasizing Fernandez’s high standing in the team’s hierarchy.