How long will Chelsea give Potter in charge?
How long does Graham Potter have to keep his job at Chelsea? How close is he to the line he dares not cross? We don’t know for sure because there’s no hard evidence of how loyal or patient the club’s new co-owner Todd Boly can be with the manager he personally selected less than six months ago.
The project was to build a new Chelsea dynasty of bright young players under a kind of innovative flamboyant coach who brought Potter great success at Brighton where he led a modest south coast team to the best-ever finish of ninth place and produced an eye-catching football brand. But after going nine games unbeaten at the start of his Chelsea tenure, things have taken a turn for the worse in 2023, to the point where the manager recently admitted to receiving heinous death threats from some fans.
Chelsea have spent over £550m on transfer fees since Boly took over, but they have only won two of their last 15 Premier League games. The club, accustomed to dining at the best table, is instead eating leftovers in 10th place, 14 points behind the top four. They’re in a kind of football no-man’s-land, and there’s mutiny in the air.
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Sunday’s 2-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur was another troubling development for Chelsea fans who watched their team struggle in a big game devoid of real fire, heart or soul. A mistake over a record £105m signing by Enzo Fernandez gave the Spurs the lead, Harry Kane was late to second place and Potter’s men didn’t even remotely look like a battling team. This performance follows an embarrassing 1-0 home defeat to Southampton at Stamford Bridge last week.
Chelsea have only scored one goal in their last five matches and are out of both domestic cup competitions. Indeed, the team looks exactly the way it is – a hodgepodge of comparatively unfamiliar people chosen from a ridiculously bloated team of around 33 players. Making so many expensive stars happy is next to impossible; in simple terms, every week there will most likely be 22 people with bruised egos.
How do you organize training sessions for so many players? Potter made six changes to the Spurs game to no avail and it could take months to find his best XI.
Understandably, Potter needs more time; his problem is that very few Chelsea fans are willing to let him. Most of them grew up during the Roman Abramovich era, when Chelsea earned more trophies than any other club in England, despite the owner employing a total of 13 managers.
Abramovich tolerated nothing but relentless success; Thus, coaches were ruthlessly hired and fired. Roberto Di Matteo lasted only a few months after winning the Champions League; Carlo Ancelotti was sacked a year later after scoring a Premier League and FA Cup double. However, fans accepted and even applauded such moves because they worked in that era. Over time, this has become Chelsea culture.
Most supporters want Boely to take a similarly cold approach to Potter’s tenure, but will he be that bold?
Firing Potter would have taken fans off his back, but it would also have shown that Pain’s original judgment was wrong. The billionaire co-owner looked rueful as he sat in the Spurs director’s box with a blue and white scarf around his neck, mocked by local fans. Penny for his thoughts.
Potter may have been only half joking when he showed up to a recent press conference, stating that he was “delayed in a crisis meeting.” He is a decent man, and if the results had been different, Chelsea fans would almost certainly have appreciated his self-deprecating, ego-free and reasoned approach, which befits a man with a degree of emotional intelligence. Instead, they lament that he doesn’t have the charisma of José Mourinho, Antonio Conte or Thomas Tuchel – all of their predecessors at Stamford Bridge.
Fans want Potter to get angry more often; they want to imagine him breathing fire in the locker room. But it’s like asking someone to change their DNA. Also, you can yell at players so much before they can’t hear what he’s saying; no, this manager will stand or fall on his human management, coaching and tactical know-how.
Potter’s critics argue that his success at Brighton was no guarantee that he would be able to work in a more demanding environment at a top four club. This could be the case, but only if a good manager turned bad in a few months.
Potter usually did TV interviews after a loss to Spurs, but he knew the questions would be sharp and uncomfortable and he wouldn’t have easy answers until his team helped him change the ugly mood at the club. He was clearly affected by the Blues’ poor form. This, of course, also affected his wife Rachel and three sons, given the death threats he received.
However, Saturday’s game against Leeds and the next midweek Champions League home match against Borussia Dortmund – Chelsea lose 1-0 in the first leg of the round of 16 – must be won or you’d be right. fearing the worst for a man who went from coaching university students to working in the Champions League.
Potter has reached his first rock on the road, and the next 10 days will show if he can find a way around it. Meanwhile, what happens next may also tell us a lot about Mr. Pain. Could he put up with what might be a “steam year” in the hope that Potter would eventually make it through?