Chelsea have spent more than £500m on 17 new players during the past two transfer windows but the lack of a clinical striker was made painfully clear in a 0-0 draw with Fulham on Friday.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Chelsea’s only fit number nine, has been left out of the club’s Champions League squad and did not feature at all against the Cottagers as a number of big-money arrivals made their debuts.

Argentina’s World Cup-winning midfielder Enzo Fernandez, who signed for a British record sum of £107m on deadline day, impressed but that lack of quality in the final third told as Chelsea’s top-four hopes were dealt another blow.

Graham Potter’s side sit ninth in the table, nine points behind fourth-placed Manchester United, having managed just one win in 2023, scoring three goals in their seven games since the turn of the year.

BBC Radio 5 Live pundit Clinton Morrison said he is “surprised” that Chelsea still have no number nine while Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville insisted the club’s owners need to show patience with Potter.

After the draw with Fulham, the Chelsea boss himself pointed to their opponents as a sign of what a side can become when they are given time to develop.

“Fulham have been together a while,” he told BBC Sport. “We’re at a different stage of that – players coming back from injury and new players.

“We need time to settle everything down. We were missing the connection, fluidity and confidence that comes from knowing each other.”

‘Potter needs time’ but should he be doing better?

It has been a difficult start to life as Chelsea manager for Potter since his appointment in September.

A run of eight games unbeaten in a busy October – including five wins in a row – showed promise but since then the former Brighton manager has overseen just three wins in 12 games in all competitions.

Against Fulham, January signings Fernandez, Mykhailo Mudryk, Benoit Badiashile, Noni Madueke and David Datro Fofana all featured at some point.

Chelsea finished the game with a completely different front three to the one they started the game but the team only managed three shots on target.

“Potter is going to need some time,” former England and Manchester United defender Neville said on Sky Sports.

“Even though they spent £600m, I looked at every department of the team and thought they need to get better. I was not impressed but it is going to take a lot of time, you can’t judge them on this.

Chelsea: ‘Why no striker?' - 'patience' needed at 'toothless' Blues

“Potter has a lot of work to do turn this team into a unit. Chelsea are toothless in attack, that is a real problem for them.”

Chelsea spent £288m in January but only Fofana arrived as a recognised forward. He didn’t take long to show a bit more bite in the final third when he came on against Fulham, rounding the goalkeeper before having a shot cleared off the line.

But the former Molde attacker, who scored 15 goals in 42 games for the Norwegians, is only 20 and for some, an experienced, established striker was more of a priority.

“You talk about the good business but it could have been even better if they bought a number nine,” said former Crystal Palace striker Morrison.

“You need that natural number nine in the squad – look at all the chances they have missed. I would have gone and got [Brentford striker] Ivan Toney.”

Former Fulham and Chelsea goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer added: “I am going to upset some people. Why not Harry Kane? The best thing for Kane in this country now is Chelsea.”

Record-signing Fernandez impresses

Chelsea: ‘Why no striker?' - 'patience' needed at 'toothless' Blues
Enzo Fernandez was not far off marking his debut with a goal after curling a shot just wide in the second half

Despite the familiar story at the top end of the pitch, there was promise from the performance of their big-money arrival further back.

A lot of expectation and pressure was on Fernandez given the huge fee paid by Chelsea to Benfica for him but, in a deep-lying midfield role and just three days after joining the club, he showed signs of what he can bring.

In an impressive first half, Fernandez had had more touches than anyone else with 59, made more tackles (five) and won possession (nine times) more than anyone else.

Former Chelsea and Argentina striker Hernan Crespo, who coached Fernandez early in his career, told BBC Radio 5 Live: “A lot has happened in a short time for him.

“From the beginning he was very mature with a lot of promise. He adapted quickly at Benfica and then coming to the national team it was so natural for him. I hope coming to Chelsea he can grow.”

The Champions League resumes this month with the competition Chelsea’s only realistic chance of a trophy this season given they are out of both domestic cup competitions and 20 points behind Premier League leaders Arsenal.

They travel to Borussia Dortmund on 15 February in the first leg of their last-16 tie, and Potter knows his side will need find a cutting edge if they are to keep alive those hopes of silverware.

‘It is jaw dropping’

Jamie Carragher on Sky Sports: “Potter will have to go really close to the top four, there has to be an improvement. This club is so ruthless, yes there is different ownership, but when you say this new regime is different to Roman Abramovich’s, it has felt exactly the same in the first six months.

“The two best managers we have had are Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola and they talk about small squads. Talking about 20, 21 players. They choose small squads. It keeps everyone believing, The big problem here is players who are never going to play and how are they going to affect the others in training.”

Gary Neville on Sky Sports: “It must be exciting for Potter but I can’t help thinking it has been a little bit fast. What will give me comfort is if Potter is still here in 18 months’ time because then he has been given a chance to develop these players.

“You can’t get away from the money. It is jaw dropping, staggering. They are going to have be really patient because no-one has really done this and tonight we have seen why, it it so hard to integrate so many players.”

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.