Risk taking Potter has work to do with Chelsea

Risk taking Graham Potter did not play it safe with his surprise team selection, tactics and formation changes against Salzburg… but the result did not reflect the performance and he has work to do with Chelsea

  • There was certainly nothing predictable about Potter’s first team selection
  • The £100m pair of Kalidou Koulibaly and Wesley Fofana were on the bench
  • UEFA team-sheet had Chelsea as a 4-2-3-1 when they started out as a 3-1-4-2 
  • The Blues remain bottom of Group E following the 1-1 draw on Wednesday night

If ever there was an occasion for a manager to play it safe it was perhaps this one.

Graham Potter’s first game in charge of Chelsea, at Stamford Bridge and in the Champions League. A night when only victory would do for Chelsea after defeat in their Group E opener at Dinamo Zagreb left them on the back foot.

But if there is one thing that is abundantly clear about Potter it is that the safe and easy option are not really what he does.

Graham Potter would have hoped for more after his first game in charge of Chelsea

The move which kick-started his coaching career from non-league Leeds Carnegie to Ostersund in Sweden was anything but, and sums up the risk-taker element of Potter that so appealed to Chelsea’s owners.

There was certainly nothing predictable about his first Chelsea team selection.

It contained just one natural centre-back and three full-backs, sparking a guessing game about how they would line up.

Raheem Sterling opened the scoring early in the second half for the hosts

Just as intriguingly, Kalidou Koulibaly and Wesley Fofana, summer signings who had cost his new employers a combined £100m, were on the bench.

Based on one of the many things he is remembered for at Brighton, the tactical unpredictability of his sides, it might be worth getting used to this.

Formation changes were the norm, sometimes multiple times in one game.

But Noah Okafor managed to take advantage of some poor Chelsea defending to equalise

UEFA were among those confused. What they presented on the official team-sheet as a Chelsea 4-2-3-1 started out as a 3-1-4-2. It only resembled anything like a defensive line of four when Reece James diligently tracked back while they had one man up front after Potter made second half changes.

Jorginho was close by to support his centre-backs. Raheem Sterling’s deployment wide on the left gave him a starting position that he seemed better suited to and allowed him to drive inside dangerously, picking up pace as he went.

There was also a lot of responsibility for Thiago Silva, often on the last line of outfield defence on the halfway line. He was showing the expected composure and experience for such a role until he misjudged a tackle just before Salzburg’s equaliser.

The Blues remain bottom of Group E following defeat in Zagreb last week

That meant this might have felt all too familiar for former Brighton boss Potter — dominance of possession, plenty of passing, a decent number of attempts but the final part missing too often and the result not reflecting the performance.

However, former manager Thomas Tuchel was not forgotten.

Applause rang out in the 21st minute followed by his ‘Super Tommy Tuchel’ song to recognise his 2021 triumph in this competition. But this is very much Potter’s Chelsea now. And it’s him who now has to find the right formula to get them off the foot of the table and through.

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