Chelsea: Is the writing on the wall for Graham Potter?

Why are Chelsea patient with Graham Potter when it would make total sense to sack him now than wait until the summer?

Chelsea co-owner Todd Boehly’s intentions were unknown at the start of the season, especially when he sacked Thomas Tuchel and appointed Graham Potter. But he earned the confidence of the fanbase after initial links to some of the biggest names. Those included Frenkie de Jong, among others. And Chelsea did put on a significant show by spending huge sums on proper names.

Despite ending the summer transfer window strongly amid earlier struggles, Boehly was scrutinised for his decision to part ways with Champions League-winning manager Thomas Tuchel. The German’s dismissal made many think about who these signings were for then.

Boehly immediately brought in Graham Potter, a manager revered for his work at Brighton & Hove Albion, as Chelsea paid a significant fee to convince the Seagulls to part ways. After a decent start to his reign, including two victories over AC Milan in the Champions League, the Englishman had already built hopes and expectations.

Little did anyone know how his time would pan out, as Chelsea are utterly struggling for wins or relevance, especially since the World Cup break. Potter has only overseen two victories since the break, against struggling sides Bournemouth and Crystal Palace.

Having watched Chelsea get knocked out of both domestic cups while being on the cusp of a Champions League elimination, the fans want Potter out of their club. The latest defeat at the hands of London rivals Tottenham seemed like the icing on the cake. But reports suggest the Blues’ hierarchy are set to back the manager all the way.

With questions lingering on Potter’s future, let’s dive deep into what is happening at Chelsea. Is it all Potter’s fault, or is there more to the whole drama at Stamford Bridge?

The Chelsea project and signings – Do they suit Graham Potter?

Chelsea’s ‘project’ spending has dominated the transfer market and newspaper headlines for the best part of two windows now. Roman Abramovich’s last few big signings have all flopped, with Kai Havertz on the cusp of taking on that mantle.

While the unfortunate return of Romelu Lukaku represented the record signing of the previous era, Boehly has already smashed that with the signing of Enzo Fernandez. The Argentine and Mykhaylo Mudryk, Noni Madueke, Benoit Badiashile, David Fofana and others meant Chelsea spent nearly £300 million only in January.

Amid all this, Chelsea do not appear to be a club with a clear, coherent or consistent plan for a ‘project’. Yes, they have brought in some of the brightest talents. But do these players suit the club as a unit?

Fernandez has already got the tag of being defensively weak in midfield, which is not good for a ‘defensive midfielder’. Mudryk is yet to make a significant impact barring a few dribbles and sparky play against Liverpool. The Ukrainian international has also yet to score, assist, or do anything meaningful in the seven games he has played. So were those huge price tags justified?

Going back to the summer transfer window, Tuchel needed a new striker, and Boehly responded by bringing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. After 59 minutes of action and being ‘happy’ to have reunited with his former manager, the ex-Arsenal star saw the German’s acrimonious departure.

Hence, the question is whether these January arrivals were something Potter wanted. Are these his style of players? No one has shown to be capable of adapting to the manager’s conflicting ideas. And if they are not his signings, then the same players will lead to his eventful downfall, which already seems imminent.

Potter’s ideas are not suitable for Chelsea

On the one hand, it may seem unfair on Potter to have inherited an expensively-assembled squad, with many key players lacking form. Chelsea have a talented bunch of international and homegrown stars. But nothing seems to be going the Englishman’s way.

While getting to know those players, Boehly came on and dumped many more on Potter’s lap. For now, those signings do not seem like intelligent buys, barring maybe Joao Felix, who does seem like a perfect match. The manager may end up paying with his job for his inability to coach them.

Potter is already under tremendous pressure. But many of those problems are his own doing. Understandably, he wanted to see each player’s composure at the beginning of his reign. But the constant chopping and changing have not stopped.

Not only have those constant changes affected the results, but they also do not help build player confidence. Potter recently compared his plight with Mikel Arteta’s difficult period at Arsenal. But the Spaniard always kept the core of his team intact.

For instance, we reckoned Benoit Badiashile would have a good impact in the game against Tottenham. But Potter chose to start the error-prone Kalidou Koulibaly in his place. The centre-back was on a good run of form, which incidentally came because he played consistently since arriving from AS Monaco.

There are many similar examples for Potter to comprehend and reflect upon. But it is already too late to get a grip. Chelsea’s fanbase may have a point to sack Potter now, but the club hierarchy may want to make a statement by sticking with their ‘project’ manager for the long run than dispose of him now.

Does it make sense to sack Potter now?

Chelsea were a ruthless club under Roman Abramovich and promised to continue that tradition under Todd Boehly. The sacking of Tuchel was their first hint. But the patience they have shown with Graham Potter signifies the tide has changed dramatically.

Constant references to Mikel Arteta may be what the Chelsea hierarchy looks at for the medium-term future. They do not want to repeat the same process by sacking Potter now and possibly kill any slim hopes left for the season.

While their actual plans remain under wrap, the feeling is that Chelsea have seemingly written off the current season and may wait until the summer before making a decision. There is also the costly affair of parting ways with a manager on a long-term contract.

They have already paid Thomas Tuchel a significant severance package and spent significantly to acquire Potter in the aftermath. Going through the process all over again may point to spending around £30-40 million just hiring and firing managers this season alone.

However, would it not make sense to do that now if Chelsea intend to sack Potter in the summer and then hand over the reins to a new man? They are linked with several top names like Luis Enrique or Brighton’s Roberto De Zerbi. While the Seagulls will not allow the Italian to depart now, the Spaniard might be ready to take over.

If they have indeed written off the season, bringing someone like Enrique now makes sense, as he can understand and set up the squad in time for next season. However, if they play the waiting game, hoping that Potter will change the season around, it may be too late for Chelsea and their ‘project’ plans.

If Chelsea want to return to winning ways and become a challenger again, they need to be ruthless in their approach. Their official stance on their manager makes them look weak in the media and the outside world. Boehly might have deep pockets to bring the best talents; he would need a mean streak to take a solid decision for the benefit of the club. He could start by sacking Potter.

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