Graham Potter removes the fear factor to give Chelsea the freedom to thrive | chelsea


gRaham Potter didn’t wield a wand. He hasn’t revived Chelsea with any breakthrough training sessions or game-changing tactics. Instead, Potter did something simple and sensible: he was himself.

He is a man who understands people, knows how to communicate and values ​​emotional intelligence. Potter had never been successful in the Champions League before replacing Thomas Tuchel as Chelsea head coach last month, but he was unfazed by the challenge of inheriting a dressing room full of stars such as Raheem Sterling and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. He also didn’t think about the pressure that comes with working for Chelsea. In Potter’s world, there is nothing to be gained from unnecessary drama. The 47-year-old doesn’t like to make a lot of noise and, for all the attention to his Glow Up (translation: expensive haircut, cool beard, trendy jackets), it’s his level-headed approach that helped him. settle quickly at Stamford Bridge.

Of course, there were questions about whether the mild-mannered former manager of Östersund, Swansea and Brighton was glamorous enough for Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital. Still, the message comes that Chelsea ownership should not be judged by dismissing Tuchel with such haste. The aim is to build a collaborative culture, with strong links between the coaching staff, a revamped recruitment department and the board, and the hiring of Potter has allowed people to see Chelsea in a different light .

It was an elite club that went off the beaten track. Chelsea, who moved up to fourth before hosting Manchester United on Saturday, reviewed Potter’s work with Brighton and decided he was ready. His departure – five wins and two draws in his first seven games, including a crushing win over Milan in the Champions League – suggests they have made a wise choice.

First impressions are positive. A busy schedule has robbed Potter of time on the training ground, but the players are enjoying his sessions. Much is made of his humility and decency. As for the connection with Aubameyang, who faced Mikel Arteta at Arsenal, he saw the striker for what he is: a human being.

Such calmness passed through the Chelsea players during games; it was evident when they kept a cool head in their moody win over Milan at the San Siro. Unlike Tuchel, Potter is not a demonstrative presence on the touchline, creating an environment where players don’t have to worry about being criticized for their mistakes.

Chelsea looked miserable when Tuchel’s last game ended in a shock defeat against Dinamo Zagreb. The German’s relationship with the board had deteriorated and several players were unhappy. But Potter and his behind-the-scenes team have energized the place. Behind the scenes, there’s admiration for Potter’s head of recruiting, Kyle Macaulay. On the pitch, the team showed signs of adapting to the subtle variations associated with Potterball.

Potter’s composure has passed down to Chelsea players since taking charge of the team. Photography: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Some players have clearly been energized by Potter’s coaching. If the manager prefers to talk to his goalkeeping coach Ben Roberts whenever the subject turns to Kepa Arrizabalaga’s revival, he can take credit for Mason Mount’s outstanding form. Mount has benefited from a more central role and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who has struggled for consistency since a serious Achilles injury in 2019, has been excellent on his outings in central midfield. Kalidou Koulibaly and Trevoh Chalobah impressed in defense. Aubameyang scores.

Potter used his team. He was not afraid to turn, to twirl between three and four backs, and adapted his tactics according to the opponent. Much was made, for example, of Sterling playing as an attacking left-back when Potter opened with a 1-1 draw at home to RB Salzburg. Would Sterling accept being removed from the top three?

Still, Potter had noted that Salzburg were playing a tight 4-2-2-2. The space was on the flanks and he wanted to put Sterling in one-on-one situations. Sure enough, the England striker scored Chelsea’s goal.

Certainly, some plans do not work. Sterling’s experiment at right-back in last week’s win over Aston Villa was not a success. Marc Cucurella also had a tough game at left centre-back and Potter was quick to make changes.

This move made players respect him more. Potter doesn’t get emotional if a game gets difficult. He reacts and solves the problem. That’s how he worked in Brighton. The big difference is that he is now working with world-class players, although he hasn’t been shy about giving Chelsea’s talented youngsters appropriate opportunities. Armando Broja and Conor Gallagher played and it was encouraging to see Potter present 18-year-old midfielder Carney Chukwuemeka with 28 minutes left against Brentford on Wednesday.

It’s about eliminating the fear factor. Potter has given his players the freedom to express themselves and doesn’t get carried away. On the one hand, Chelsea are seven points off the top, have kept five consecutive clean sheets and will qualify for the Champions League Round of 16 if they beat Salzburg on Tuesday. Likewise, they could have lost to Brentford and were lucky not to concede against Villa. Reece James, Wesley Fofana and N’Golo Kanté are long-term absentees and concerns remain over the consistency and incisiveness of Chelsea’s attack.

The atmosphere can quickly turn at Chelsea. A string of defeats would invite pressure on a scale Potter never knew; upcoming games against United, Brighton, Arsenal and Newcastle could change the outlook.

Still, Potter, who is not an insecure person, will take it all in stride. He’s adept at dealing with people and he’s a tactical expert. Chelsea hope this continues to prove a winning combination.


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