The turn of the year has not seen an upturn in Chelsea’s fortunes, with the same problems that have plagued the side over the last eighteen months still prevalent. Graham Potter will be rueing his side’s inability to claim three points against a spirited Nottingham Forest team, in a game of two very contrasting halves.
Chelsea headed into their first Premier League match against Nottingham Forest for nearly 24 years, coming off the back of a 2-0 victory against Bournemouth – and with Tottenham Hotspur losing to Aston Villa in the earlier fixture of the first Super Sunday of 2023, there was a prime opportunity for Potter’s side to close the gap to their London rivals with a positive result at the City Ground. However, the Blues could only come away from the East Midlands with a draw, consolidating their eighth place position in the Premier League table.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Kepa; Azpilicueta (c), Koulibaly, Thiago Silva, Cucurella; Zakaria (Kovacic 61), Jorginho (Gallagher 73′); Sterling (Ziyech 73′), Mount (Aubameyang 73′), Pulisic (Chukwuemeka 87′); Havertz
Unused Subs: Bettinelli, Hall, Chalobah, Hutchinson
Scorer: Sterling 16′
Booked: Azpilicueta 53′, Gallagher 90′
Nottingham Forest (4-3-3): Henderson; Aurier, Worrall (c), Boly, Lodi; Mangala (Colback 78′), Freuler, Yates; Gibbs-White, Johnson (Surridge 82′), Awoniyi (Williams 88′)
Unused Subs: Hennessey, Toffolo, Cook, McKenna, O’Brien, Dennis
Scorer: Aurier 63′
Booked: Yates 43′, Lodi 90+3′
Following a minute’s applause to honour the late Brazil legend Pele, the game kicked off with Nottingham Forest’s game plan clear for all to see. With the absence of the injured Reece James, they were keen to use the pace of Brennan Johnson to break in behind the Chelsea defence, and he came closest for the home side in a one-on-one with Kepa Arrizabalaga.
However, Chelsea were the more potent looking team in the first period, beginning with a good intent to push forward that resulted in Mason Mount producing two threatening efforts before a Christian Pulisic cross was inadvertently back-heeled onto the bar by Willy Boly, who utilised a Giroud-esque scorpion kick in his own box. Raheem Sterling reacted quickest to the loose ball, to volley Chelsea into the lead.
Despite conceding early, the atmosphere inside the City Ground built throughout the half, with the home crowd becoming continually irate by the decisions of referee Peter Bankes.
Chelsea were unable to capitalise on some good opportunities in pursuit of a second goal before half-time, which would turn out to be costly as Steve Cooper’s team then leapt out of the blocks after the break. Brennan Johnson had an effort saved, before Gibbs-White rattled the underside of the bar with a spectacular strike.
The runs of Johnson and Awoniyi in particular caused Chelsea problems throughout the game, with the Nigerian forward able to isolate and run Koulibaly ragged on numerous occasions. Unfortunately for the hosts, they lacked the cutting edge in the final third – which is unsurprising from a side that has only scored 12 goals in 17 league games. It took a superb piece of finishing from defender Aurier to finally level the score, but the goal was fully deserved for Forest on account of their superior work rate and endeavour in the second period.
Chelsea came out a completely different side in the second half, with the visitors looking lacklustre and failing to have a shot on target after the break – despite Potter using all five substitutions in an attempt to change the game. One of the players introduced, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, could have won Chelsea the game, had he been able to make proper contact with his header after a stupendous cross from fellow substitute Hakim Ziyech. However, anything more than a point for the Blues would have been unjust.
The final whistle was greeted with a huge cheer that echoed around the City Ground, as the result enabled Nottingham Forest to climb level on points with 17th place. It leaves Chelsea with one win in their last five games in all competitions, and without a victory in five Premier League away matches. Their future under Graham Potter remains a matter for debate, especially with two games against Manchester City looming on the horizon.