Chelsea’s culture shift can only keep Graham Potter at the helm for so long as losses keep piling up

If the dismissal of Thomas Tuchel at the first sign of trouble was the last hurray for old regimeAll ChelseaThe hosts did just that, as it was intended to display daylight between them and Roman Abramovich. From briefings that it was not because of performances but because of the wrong relationship between manager and owner, to the hiring not of Europe’s next big leader in management, but of a prospect from the Premier League’s midfield, this should be a new era. . at Stamford Bridge.

If anyone wants proof that Todd Boly and Behdad Egbali are indeed different, they need look no further than the ongoing work of Graham Potter, whose team has won two of the 12 games since the World Cup, losing six. Such was Abramovich’s capriciousness that it’s easy to imagine that the current Chelsea head coach could not even make it to Qatar, leading a losing streak to Arsenal, Manchester and Newcastle. There are many mitigating factors: injuries, an uneven squad, the growing quality of the Premier League’s midfield. The old boss didn’t care.

Boehly, Eghbali and the rest of the owners’ consortium decided to change that. The recruitment of a number of people whose role vaguely resembles that of a sporting director would bring with it a collegial approach to running the club, half a billion pounds in recruiting to create a pre-peak team that can grow together. They look at the Premier League table and see the value of the patience shown at Arsenal, where Mikel Arteta went from public enemy No. 1 to promised prince. They want to give Potter the same leeway.

But the club’s culture is not only defined by its corridors of power. Two decades of Abramovich’s rule taught supporters what they should value. The turbulence that was indispensable condition life at Stamford Bridge was accepted because it was adorned with more trophies than fans who had grown up before the takeover could have imagined. Expensive perestroikas were no less common under the Russians, as they were under Boli and Egbali, who spent January unraveling the mess they sewed up by signing similar Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang And Kalidou Koulibaly.

The difference is that when Abramovich’s Chelsea lost a nine-figure sum over the summer, the fans assumed they were doing it in anticipation of an immediate payback. It was a club that held the Keynesian long-term view, namely that we are all dead in it. Fans who have come to this understanding of their club have a hard time adapting to the mindset that £88.5m Mikhail Mudryk is a signed project with little sign of an immediate impact. This is Stamford Bridge’s own shock doctrine.

None of this absolves crazy supporters from an iota of responsibility for Death threats sent to Potter and his children. As always since he took over the reins in September, the Silhilla handled these difficult circumstances gracefully, acknowledging the harm done to his family but refusing to stray from the path. It seems impossible for neutrals not to support Potter to succeed in his time in west London.

Not yet, and his position among more reasonable fans would not be improved by the fact that the three points that Chelsea took for granted whenever they faced Tottenham were taken by Spurs instead. A 2-0 defeat has so far been the key to Potter’s stay in microcosm, beautiful formations and complex play, but once the first goal went against them, they couldn’t go back to the pre-programmed formations that would allow them to charm their way through their back five. hosts. .

“I think we played well in the first half,” Potter said, “and in a game where it’s not easy to create chance after chance because Tottenham are defending well with a back five. There is support among the players. fighting for each other and fighting for the team. They want to achieve more and suffer. I sympathize with them.

“I can’t think too much about 40,000 or 50,000 people. I need to focus on what I can control, which is the next day and the next workout. Our fans were very honest and I supported the team. I have no complaints about the fans. They have a right to be disappointed, frustrated and angry about the results we got, and that’s my responsibility. So I have no complaints about the fans.”

Once again, when the Blues faced a team they would have considered their own peers, they were sorely lacking in attacking power. In five Premier League games against Big 7 rivals since the change of manager, Chelsea have averaged 0.6 expected goals (xG).

The owners may have foreseen this when they appointed Potter and, even after all their January spending, left him with a team with one senior striker who, as Aubameyang, looks ill-suited to what the modern game demands. It was such an unbearable weight. Kai Havertz In the final third, it seems like Potter has decided to put an end to Aubameyang’s exile as his team attempted a doomed return. In eight minutes, Chelsea’s No. 9 made one touch.

In the summer, another recruit will appear in the attack. Christopher Nkunku was one of the deadliest goalscorers in the Bundesliga (just like Timo Werner was) but like it Joao FelixHavertz and Romelu Lukaku, it tends to work best in tandem. Should Potter go as far as including RB Leipzig forward in his attack will bring with him a lot of headaches. If there was an issue with his time at Brighton, it was his team’s lack of killer instinct in front of goal. In each of his three full seasons, the Seagulls scored less than their xG, in three Premier League seasons they scored 121 goals out of 142.5 xG. It may be nothing more than a statistical quirk, but it has carried over to Chelsea, where the Blues are the league’s lowest scorers since the World Cup, ranking 10th in xG per game during that period.

Boli and Egbali could see this as an argument in favor of patience; it is inconceivable that everyone in their detachment would forbid Koulibaly and Mason Mount will continue to fall behind their xGs, not least when there have been flashes of something promising in the coming game after game. As Potter pointed out, the rewards for sticking with a trainer can be great. “Before the game we talked about watching Arsenal All or Nothing and two years of Mikel. [Arteta’s] reign, he’s close to getting the sack and people want him gone. It was considered a disaster, but now things have changed a little, ”he said after the defeat to Tottenham.

Yet there is one important difference between Arteta and Potter: most of the former’s great battles took place behind closed doors during the Premier League’s lockdown season. There have been a lot of complaints on social media, but when are there none? The Kronkes have never been subjected to the palpable wrath of a stadium that has lost faith in its manager, as it seemed to Stamford Bridge in a humiliating 1-0 defeat at the bottom of the table. Southampton earlier this month.

In this respect, Potter is more like Unai Emery than the man who followed him to Arsenal. As the Spaniard faltered at the start of his second season, those above him insisted they were not the sacking club. However, once the Emirates Stadium started grumbling, it was just a matter of time.

It was at a club where fourth place meant progress. Ever since Ken Bates took over in 2003, Chelsea have become a club where even silver doesn’t protect managers for long. The dominion could not do without the beloved Tuchel after several defeats and expect supporters to be more patient with his successor.

Boli and Egbali may look at things differently. But they will not be able to close their eyes to the fans who have been taught to look at Chelsea through a certain lens.


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