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Will Graham Potter Be A Success At Chelsea?


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Team logoCrystal Palace
Team logoChelsea
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Last updated 23/06/2024

Is Potter In need Of Time to Implement His system?

Like all managers who have made the step up to managing a big club, yes, Graham Potter does need time to implement his system. But he also needs the right players to implement his style of play out on the pitch.

At both Ostersunds and Brighton, he had an environment where he was trusted and given time by both clubs, and that enabled him to build somewhat successful teams. Joining Ostersunds in 2010, Potter took the Swedish outfit from the fourth tier all the way to the top flight over the next few years, while also winning the 2017 Swedish Cup. That cup win got them entry into the qualifying rounds for Europe, and the club would go on to make it to the knockout stages of the Europa League, being eliminated in the round of 32 by Arsenal.

At Brighton, Potter took a team who were usually reliant on defending deep and scoring on the counter-attack, to a side that were comfortable in possession and able to go toe-to-toe with some of the division's best sides. Whereas the Seagulls were previously reliant on moments of brilliance from their top players like Pascal Groß or Glenn Murray to gain points.

The South Coast club's excellent recruitment got Potter the players he wanted, and Brighton would no longer have to rely on one or two star players - they were now a team with some top-quality talent. Alexis Mac Allister, Marc Cucurella, Leandro Trossard and Tariq Lamptey are arguably the best examples of the smart business that Brighton conducted.

Lamptey and Cucurella were excellent wing-backs, both offering serious attacking threat going forward. Crucially, they were also adequate when it came to defensive duties. Brighton's goals conceded have gone down every year since the 2018/19 season, and the duo played a part in achieving that alongside regular centre-back Lewis Dunk - the duo were also key in creating chances for Brighton's attackers from the flanks.

Mac Allister brought dynamism and creativity in midfield, while Trossard is a goalscoring threat from both the left- wing and whenever he has played centrally. Potter went on to guide the club to 15th, 16th as well as a ninth-place finish in his three full seasons in charge. While on paper those first two finishes are not outstanding, Potter's football was widely regarded as one of the best in the league to watch, and he did a fantastic job with such limited resources. At a much better-resourced Chelsea, Potter could arguably produce much better results - and in doing so, he could perhaps add some silverware to his limited medal haul.

Will Todd Boehly Give Him Time?

It’s hard to say. Potter did sign a five-year contract when he was appointed back in September, so that does indicate that the Chelsea hierarchy sees the Englishman as someone that they want to keep at the club long-term.

Further characterising that commitment to Potter is the fact that Chelsea paid out in excess of £20m in compensation to secure not just Potter, but his trusted backroom staff, who have been with the Englishman at his last three managerial appointments (Ostersunds, Swansea and Brighton).

But this is Chelsea – a club who, in the past, have had no qualms about sacking managers whenever they wanted to. It was a much-maligned strategy, but it was a strategy that ultimately worked for the Blues, so the question is, will Todd Boehly be the same as the previous regime? Will he sack managers on a whim, or will he really commit to and give time to one manager in the hopes that it will lead to success? Boehly has already shown that he will make cut-throat decisions if he has to – the American decided to sack Thomas Tuchel after a run of bad form and reported behind-the-scenes discontent, despite having spent a staggering £270m on players in the summer transfer window. After spending such an amount, you would expect a manager to be given plenty of time to extract value from those players for the best results, but Tuchel was not given that chance by Boehly.

Chelsea just need to look across London to city-rivals Arsenal to see what benefits can be reaped from giving a manager time. Mikel Arteta has been backed in the transfer market, but crucially, he has been given the time to actually let his new signings bed in to the squad and get acquainted with the style of football he employs. And the Gunners hierarchy are now reaping the rewards of standing by their man, with Arsenal currently top of the Premier League table, eight points ahead of Manchester City.

Time is crucial, so will Potter be given it? The fact that he has a long-term contract works in his favour, but the track record of his employers with managers works against him – we will just have to wait and find out. Potter could be a huge success, but time is key.

Does Boehly’s transfer strategy go against the manager?

It did with Tuchel, but Potter seems to be a different prospect. When in talks about taking the Chelsea job, Potter reportedly asked for guarantees that he would have power in the January transfer window and beyond before committing to a long-term deal.

According to Fabrizio Romano, Potter wanted to have an active say in the transfer business, working alongside the club’s board, to ensure that the club was signing the right profile of player. This is a big bonus for owner Boehly, who reportedly likes his manager to have a big say in transfers - Potter’s willingness to actively participate in transfers works well for the new owner.

This is partly why Tuchel began to become unhappy at the club – after the departure of the long-serving, highly-respected Marina Granovskaia (who had looked after transfers and player contracts since 2013), Tuchel was expected to be more hands-on with transfers. But some media outlets claimed that the German was not a fan of doing so (calling it “confusing and distracting”), with it becoming a factor in his eventual exit.

So with new appointment Potter being involved in transfers much more than his predecessor, could we see Chelsea make some smart additions in the market?

Are Chelsea in Need of a Squad Overhaul?

Chelsea don’t need a full overhaul – it’s just that a lot of their players have been missing through injury. Reece James, Ben Chilwell, N’Golo Kante and Wesley Fofana have all struggled with different injury issues, but Chelsea are a very different side with that quartet of players in the team.

The Blues problems lie elsewhere - there is a lot of underperforming deadwood at the club that should be replaced. Players such as Hakim Ziyech, Mason Mount and Kai Havertz have all been failures during their time in London, and they need to be moved on as they do not contribute anything.

The striker position has been a problem for many years now, with Alvaro Morata, Timo Werner and Romelu Lukaku just some of the expensive flops that have taken up the striker's mantle at Stamford Bridge in recent years. Chelsea have reportedly secured the signing of RB Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku, with the prolific Frenchman set to join in the summer, and we will just have to wait until next season to see how he turns out. Chelsea probably won’t target a striker in this window, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang seen as “enough” to get Chelsea through until the end of the season.

N’Golo Kante’s time in west London seems to be up, with the midfielder’s contract expiring soon and no indication that he will agree to stay. Therefore, the 31-year-old is free to sign a pre-contract agreement in January, with Barcelona reportedly interested.

Moises Caicedo would be a fantastic replacement for Kante in midfield, with the Ecuadorian a standout performer for Brighton this season. He would surely relish the opportunity to link up with Graham Potter once again, and although Brighton would demand a huge fee for Caicedo, we know that Boehly has the funds.

World Cup starlet Enzo Fernandez has also been linked with the West Londoners, with a mammoth £112m bid reportedly being readied for the 21-year-old. The Benfica midfielder impressed at Qatar 2022, being handed the Young Player of the Tournament award. Is Fernandez a better option than what Potter currently has at his disposal? Conor Gallagher and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have both failed to show that they are of the standard required, while Mateo Kovacic has struggled with injury.

Chelsea are also reportedly interested in Mykhailo Mudryk, but the winger does look like he will be joining rivals Arsenal. If negotiations between Arsenal and Shakhtar Donetsk do fail to progress (with issues over the final fee being reported), then Chelsea are on standby, ready to hijack the deal.

Young centre-backs Josko Gvardiol and Benoit Badiashile are also targets of Chelsea this January, with a deal for Badiashile reportedly close to completion. A deal for Gvardiol will prove trickier, with RB Leipzig reportedly holding out for around £90m for the Croatian.

Was Sacking Tuchel a major mistake?

It’s hard to tell – again, time is very important when asking these kinds of questions. Chelsea achieved a lot under Tuchel, winning the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and the Club World Cup, alongside runner-up finishes in the FA Cup and Carabao Cup.

Tuchel’s time at Chelsea saw him record a 60% win rate, with the loss against Dinamo Zagreb in his final match in charge being just the 16th time he tasted defeat while managing the Blues. Ultimately, Tuchel’s record at the club was impressive, and he left with a Champions League to his name.

But, the club was on a run of poor form at the start of this season, with losses to Leeds, Southampton and the aforementioned defeat to Dinamo Zagreb notable in that run. Things were not looking good for Tuchel, especially with the reports that he had lost the confidence of his squad and developed rifts with members of the board. It’s unknown exactly how Tuchel would have fared had he been allowed to carry on, but it’s likely that Chelsea’s poor form would have continued, and so, the decision to sack him was probably justified.

In Potter, Chelsea have themselves a decent manager. With the right backing and time given, he could prove to be one of the best managerial appointments the club has made. But on the other hand, the job may prove to be too big for the Englishman, with the step up to managing a European powerhouse club like the Blues potentially exposing Potter’s deficiencies as a manager.

Can Potter manage the egos of top European stars, something that he hasn’t had to deal with before? Can he compete on multiple fronts such as the Champions League and domestic cups, which he has never had to do before? If he is able to successfully do so, then the future looks promising for Chelsea. But if he fails to do so, then some may look back on the sacking of Tuchel as a massive mistake that dearly cost the club.