Chelsea’s Graham Potter prioritizing results over style


Much like companies, golf equipment love to speak about imaginative and prescient, philosophy, values and id. Who are we? Where will we wish to be? It’s the sort of stuff that retains motivational audio system steadily employed and MBA applications in enterprise.

You presume the present incarnation of Chelsea are not any totally different. There’s a “project” — no, higher but, a “roadmap” to success — and it concerned hiring supervisor Graham Potter, in addition to a bunch of latest scouts and recruitment guys and making hefty investments in January. (Of course, they made hefty investments in the summertime switch window earlier than that, however that in all probability wasn’t a part of the grand imaginative and prescient, because the solely guys making the choices had been membership chairman Todd Boehly, co-owner Behdad Eghbali and supervisor Thomas Tuchel, with the latter rapidly fired by the opposite two.)

The drawback with the roadmap — and never simply Chelsea’s, however that of any soccer membership — is that it may possibly conflict with the truth of results.

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Depending on the membership and the knowledge and persistence of each followers and people in cost, there’s at all times some latitude by way of results. You’ll sacrifice results in alternate for progress and improvement, whether or not meaning producing chemistry, growing younger gamers or serving to newcomers settle. But there’s solely a lot sacrificing that you are able to do, partly as a result of, in some unspecified time in the future, gamers get stressed, followers get indignant and people revenues that you simply get from house gates and prize cash get smaller.

Chelsea have gained their previous two video games, Saturday at house in opposition to Leeds United within the Premier League and Tuesday within the Champions League in opposition to Borussia Dortmund, securing a spot within the last eight. That’s good by way of placating the supporters and bringing in some further money.

Is the best way they attained it a part of the “project?” Probably not. Does it matter? Probably, sure.

Potter was employed — at nice expense, lest we neglect, the $25 million (£22m) paid to Brighton in compensation is second solely to the price Bayern paid RB Leipzig for Julian Nagelsmann’s companies — on the again of his monitor document with Brighton, the place he performed a model of engaging, trendy soccer and attained wonderful results relative to the staff’s assets, avoiding relegation on a shoestring finances in his first two seasons after which taking them into the highest 10 final yr.

– Potter: “I’m still here” regardless of Chelsea stress

Potter is a considerate, clever man. He’s maybe not like the standard English soccer males of yesteryear, the type which can be distrustful of articulate ex-players like Potter with college levels — not to mention grasp’s levels in “Leaderships, Personal and Professional Development” — which can clarify why he needed to go to the Swedish fourth tier to get his first teaching gig 12 years in the past. But he might definitely discuss sport to personal fairness sorts like Boehly and Eghbali, who may have been on the lookout for an edge, and Potter’s steady rise via the managerial meals chain prompt he didn’t simply have a “growth mindset,” however that he was really rising in stature.

Here’s the factor: after we’ve seen Potter’s soccer at Chelsea, that means the type that impressed at Brighton, results ranged from mediocre to poor, particularly when in possession. In the previous two victories, we noticed little of it — although there’s nothing improper with that — and but, their results have been good.

It’s not as if each the Leeds and Dortmund video games performed out precisely the identical approach, however there are some eerie parallels.

Chelsea began brightly in opposition to each, creating loads of probabilities, however failing to transform. Against Leeds, this lasted roughly half an hour. They then dropped the tempo, took the lead early within the second half with Wesley Fofana’s set-piece header within the 53rd minute, after which made defensive substitutions to protect the lead. After Chelsea took the lead, they managed simply two photographs on purpose for an xG of 0.07; Leeds had eight, for an xG of 0.76.

As for Dortmund? Chelsea took the lead on mixture with Kai Havertz’s penalty within the 53rd minute — precisely like in opposition to Leeds — and after that, they made defensive substitutions to guard it. In the ultimate 37 minutes, Chelsea managed only one shot on purpose (Havertz from near the touchline) for an xG of 0.01. Dortmund managed 11 photographs on purpose, with an xG of 0.86.

The distinction was that on Saturday, in opposition to a relegation-threatened opponent underneath a brand new supervisor, that they had the ball loads of time (58%) whereas in opposition to Dortmund, league leaders within the Bundesliga, had lots much less of it: simply 39%. To a point, that is comprehensible: Leeds had been pleased to concede possession away from house in opposition to a greater staff whereas Dortmund, on a excessive due to 9 straight wins within the Bundesliga, demanded the ball.

Either approach, 39% possession at house in a must-win sport isn’t very Potter-esque. Not when you think about that in his three full seasons at Brighton, his staff averaged 52% possession. When a facet with a restricted finances has that a lot of the ball within the Premier League, you could be certain of 1 factor: it is by design.

Even with out the numbers, it would not take a genius to determine that Potter’s Chelsea would not play like his Brighton staff did, solely with higher gamers, because the homeowners hoped he would. There are tons of causes for this — new coach, far much less time on the coaching pitch given Chelsea’s European commitments, no preseason, an entire new posse of newcomers exhibiting up in January — however put that to 1 facet for now.

If you are Potter and also you wish to preserve your job, what do you do? Do you attempt to play the best way you probably did with Brighton, which is what received you employed? Or do you prioritise results by doing the textbook issues extra conventional managers do, like shutting up store after taking the lead and implementing a sport plan that principally consists of Enzo Fernandez attempting to hit via balls and ready for Joao Felix to create one thing out of nothing?

I genuinely do not know the reply, and it is clearly not a binary selection; there are shades of gray, and results additionally bestow authority and credibility, issues Potter additionally wants. But what’s fairly apparent is that Chelsea’s mini-turnaround has little to do with what received him the job within the first place or with the soccer which he’ll try and play subsequent season … assuming he isn’t sacked first.


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