How will Chelsea play with new signing Joao Felix?

Joao Felix signs for Chelsea
(Image credit: Chelsea FC)

Chelsea have confirmed the signing of Portuguese star Joao Felix, on loan from Atletico Madrid for the remainder of the 2022/23 season.

Out of favour in the Spanish capital, Felix's move signals a reset in his young career - at 23-years-old, he still has the potential to become one of Europe's most revered attackers, but, in recent seasons, he has failed to live up to the £113 million price tag.

Chelsea are out of sorts at the moment as well, though, with the club knocked out of both the FA Cup and League Cup, and sitting 10th in the Premier League. They are still in the Champions League, though, where they will face Borussia Dortmund in the last 16.

Felix, therefore, has been bought in to add some essential attacking impetuous Chelsea have been lacking this season. 

With Christian Pulisic out for multiple months with a knee injury, and Raheem Sterling's hamstring issue - picked up in their 1-0 defeat to Manchester City last week - still unclear, manager Graham Potter could throw the Portuguese forward straight into the action against Fulham on Thursday night. 

Hitting the ground running is imperative for Felix, and FourFourTwo takes a look at where he will play for Chelsea in the next six months. 

Where will Joao Felix play?

Chelsea's 3-4-3 with Joao Felix on the left of a front three

Chelsea's 3-4-3 with Joao Felix on the left of a front three (Image credit: Future)

A flair player by trade, Joao Felix is most natural having space to create in. In numerical terms, he's a nine-and-a-half, a second-striker playing on the shoulder of the centre-forward. When needed, though, he is also capable of playing as the furthest man forward, or from the left - as he proved for Portugal at the World Cup.

Felix is especially strong at threading balls through the eye of the needle, the 23-year-old efficient in playing progressive passes to teammates on the last line of the defence.

Indeed, he produces lots of shot-creating actions during games, as evidenced during his sporadic time on the pitch for Atletico Madrid this season. In just 650 minutes of football, Felix produced 29 shot-creating actions, related to his dribbling and passing allowing either himself or teammates to strike at goal. 

Graham Potter often employs a 3-4-3 formation, with Kai Havertz generally used as Chelsea's focal point - should Felix start alongside him in the front three, this could prove key in deciding games. The German often prefers to make runs in behind with clever movement, rather than holding the ball up. Make the runs he loves making around Felix, and invariably he will be found. 

Coming from the left, therefore, might be where Chelsea have pinpointed Felix as being most effective. Confident at drifting inside and picking up dangerous positions, Felix also regularly tries his luck from distance, while his slight frame does nothing to deter his strong protection of the ball.

Of course, that would mean ousting Raheem Sterling from the position he has occupied for the majority of the season, but, with his versatility in forward positions, this shouldn't prove too much of a problem for the 28-year-old working his way into the side. 

Defensively, though, is where Felix could struggle. Even at Atleti, where Diego Simeone is synonymous with getting his players to buy into an intense and aggressive style of play without the ball, Felix failed to offer much in terms of a press. 

The 23-year-old can be found wanting when it comes to tracking opposition players back to his own goal, while his press is often lacklustre and tokenistic. On the right Mason Mount is honest with his running, and Potter will inevitably have identified this flaw in Felix's game. A slightly different defensive system could therefore be used, whereby Chelsea's midfield two becomes a three, could therefore ensure the side isn't caught out by Felix's uninspiring press.  

Regardless, if he produces the quality that made him arguably the brightest prospect in world football five years ago, then Chelsea fans could forgive him for failing to track a runner or two.

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Ryan Dabbs
Staff writer

Ryan is a staff writer for FourFourTwo, joining the team full-time in October 2022. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before eventually earning himself a position with FourFourTwo permanently. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer while a Trainee News Writer at Future.