Chelsea were unable to start 2023 with victory as the Blues were held to a disappointing and frustrating 1-1 draw against Nottingham Forest.

Chelsea head coach Graham Potter watches on during the draw with Nottingham Forest

Away woes continue

The exasperation in the voice of the Chelsea head coach was clear as a post-match autopsy was carried out in front of the media. “It’s too easy to push us off the track, too easy to win challenges, too easy to bully us. What stops l that? Pure mentality. Stop it by pure mentality.”

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Those were not words delivered by Graham Potter after yesterday’s draw with Nottingham Forest. Such bluntness isn’t the 47-year-old’s style, at least not publicly. No, they came from the mouth of Thomas Tuchel back in August after Chelsea were defeated by Southampton.

Different coach, same problem. That is the gist – and it’s partly why such frustration has built following the clash at the City Ground. It shouldn’t be like this. It shouldn’t be this predictable: a tricky away stadium, a hostile crowd, a Chelsea performance that wilts under the pressure.

READ MOREEvery word Graham Potter said on Chelsea vs Nottingham Forest, away form concern, January window

Potter isn’t blameless for the 1-1 scoreline against Forest. His changes came too late, momentum had already been wrestled the hosts’ way in the second period. However, the vulnerabilities in this Chelsea squad pre-date him. They even pre-date Tuchel. Frank Lampard too.

It’s too easy for opponents to hound Chelsea out of games not played at Stamford Bridge. It happened at Leeds earlier this season. At Brighton. At St James’ Park against Newcastle United. And it’s why the Blues have won just three of their nine away Premier League matches this term.

“Away from home, teams are not going to make it easy for you,” said Potter in his post-match press conference.. “On the one hand, you’ve got players asking for shirts [after the game] and on the other, they are ready to ready to run through a brick wall before the game to prove they can be good enough to beat or play for Chelsea.

“That is how it is. With that comes responsibility for us and we have to be humble enough to know that is the challenge we face. We have to do better.”

As Forest proved, there are no gimmes in the Premier League. Next up for Chelsea on their travels? West London neighbours Fulham. A trip to Anfield to take on Liverpool follows. Neither match will be easy. Neither side will let the Blues have the game their own way. They have to earn the right to win on the road, something which simply hasn’t happened often enough.

Koulibaly concern remains

Having lost both Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger on free transfers, centre-back was a position Chelsea simply had to strengthen in the summer transfer window. The first arrival was Kalidou Koulibaly, a defender regarded as one best in Europe over the previous decade after starring for Napoli.

At 31 years old, the Senegal international was a signing for the here and now. A player who would, in theory, soften the blow of losing the talismanic Rudiger to Real Madrid. Yet 16 matches into the Senegal international’s Chelsea career and big questions are being asked.

Did Koulibaly move to England too late? Can he adapt to the fast-paced nature of the Premier League? Should he continue to be used as a right centre-back having spent much of his career on the left? And can he be played alongside Thiago Silva, another defender in his thirties?

The are no easy answers for Koulibaly or Potter. The English top flight is unforgiving and any sign of weakness is often ruthlessly exposed. Forest were able to do so yesterday and Koulibaly endured a difficult 90 minutes. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get any easy with Manchester City and Erling Haaland to come on Thursday.

And for that reason, it may be time for Potter to bring Trevoh Chalobah back into his starting XI. The academy graduate has been a reliable presence when called upon this term but has somewhat surprisingly been dropped to the bench for the past two matches by Potter. He deserves another opportunity.

One bright spot

Going into the World Cup break, it appeared as though Hakim Ziyech had very little future at Chelsea. His involvement during the first half of the campaign had been limited under both Tuchel and Potter and there were increasingly strong reports about the 29-year-old pushing for a move away.

However, during the tournament in Qatar, Ziyech starred as Morocco unexpectedly made it to the semi-finals before being knocked out by France. The winger appeared revitalised and engaged. But would that remain the case on his return to Chelsea?

Ziyech returned to training earlier this week and was among the substitutes against Forest. He was introduced with 18 minutes to play and the score level. Chelsea needed him to make a difference and in an otherwise listless second-half display, Ziyech did fashion a clear chance.

It was his whipped delivery to the back post that was inch-perfect for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Unfortunately, the forward was unable to connect properly with his header and the chance was lost. Yet it was another indication of the rare quality Ziyech can bring to this Chelsea side.

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