When it was widely expected he could be sacked in the last few weeks, the Chelsea hierarchy weren’t even thinking of it. They won’t consider it this season, nor next.
He is precisely the coaching profile they want, and they also realise the context he’s working in. They see the recent drop-off as a consequence of an extreme injury crisis. They are conscious of how complicated it is to impose an entirely new tactical approach on a squad, especially one they are in the process of “regenerating”. The average age of their signings was just over 20.
When they say this is a long-term project, they mean it. The Chelsea hierarchy have frequently pointed to what happened with Arsenal in the first two years of Mikel Arteta, and it hasn’t escaped notice that they were a conspicuously passive side in that point. It was almost nothing like the electric football the leaders play now but was the foundation of it. The players had to essentially internalise the tactical framework, understanding it to the level they could move so much more freely in it.
There are parallels with Potter, there, although his football ideal is not the same as Arteta’s. We actually don’t really have an idea of it at a top club. That is why Potter is into the unknown here in so many ways, not least trying to keep this squad happy.
Enzo Fernandez made his debut after becoming the most expensive Premier League player of all time
It was still striking how often he referred to his work at previous clubs when asked about a necessary shift in approach in his first press conference after the window.
“I’ve spent seven years at Ostersunds, a year at Swansea where we pretty much had to sell everybody and be creative with who we were using, at Brighton obviously three and a bit years there, it’s a different model, so you have to take the experiences, take the things you learnt in that context and apply them here even though it is different, like you say, totally. It would be wrong of me to think I’m in Brighton or back at Ostersunds, we’re at Chelsea, the numbers are different, the ambition is different in terms of where we’re trying to get to.”
As ever with Potter, you can completely get the rationale of what he is saying. It’s entirely logical and fair. It’s just that football at this level isn’t always fair. It’s quite brutal and ruthless, and it is the nature of elite players to ask how relevant work at Ostersunds or even Brighton is at this level.
Those in the Chelsea hierarchy would insist that’s precisely why profile and personality of player is so important to them. They made a point of buying young talent that are “culturally right” for the club. That is better for a pure coach like Potter trying to impose a tactical idea.
It is still trying to impose that idea on a highly fluid squad, with so many numbers, as he himself adapts to the club.
It is why this situation isn’t as simple as the numbers of that expenditure. But that isn’t necessarily the reason for the low number of goals, and shots.
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