Chelsea have spent £274m on new players and changed managers since the end of last season, but they have somehow managed to make their squad worse. It’s an achievement of the club’s new owners, a consortium led by Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly. But for now at least, it’s manager Graham Potter who bears the brunt of the criticism for his poor results and lackluster performance.
It always is, and Potter, whose side are eighth in the Premier League, seven points behind fourth-placed Manchester United, will have no illusions that his fate will always be directly tied to results on the pitch. At present the results are grim (two wins in seven, including four losses) and with two games against Manchester City this week – in the Premier League and the FA Cup – it could get worse before it gets better.
When Potter arrived from Brighton as the successor to sacked Thomas Tuchel in September, the Chelsea hierarchy, led by co-owner Boehly, sold him on his vision for a new Chelsea. This was a club that would look to the long term and plan accordingly, adopting a more collegial approach and giving the brilliant young manager time to impose his methods on the team.
Roman Abramovich’s former Chelsea, who saw managers hired and fired as often as they won big trophies, had seemingly been consigned to the past. But perhaps that idea was as naïve as Chelsea’s recruitment since the change in ownership. This naivety now begins to make Potter’s job much more difficult. The 47-year-old is struggling with the challenge of managing a club as big as Chelsea and he needs help, but he’s not the only one learning on the job at Stamford Bridge.
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Boehly has personally overseen Chelsea’s player recruitment and managerial change since taking over the club in the summer, and even his biggest fan would be hard-pressed to suggest the team is in a better place after his six months at the helm.
The recent hiring of former RB Leipzig technical director Christopher Vivell to a similar role at Chelsea should bring expertise to the football department, but in the immediate future Potter still has to deal with the hand dealt to him by Boehly: an unbalanced team that is overloaded with defenders and desperately short of scorers. The manager can be blamed for failing to ensure many of his players live up to expectations, but it’s questionable whether he signed many in the first place.
Mark Ogden is worried about Chelsea’s season after a disappointing 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest.
In the 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest on Sunday, Chelsea looked like a team that had been launched without a coherent plan or strategy. And that’s not far from the truth.
Potter has nothing to do with the club losing Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen as free agents to Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively in the summer. Boehly was also powerless to stop the defenders from leaving the club, but the new owner sanctioned the £97.5million loan departure of striker Romelu Lukaku to Inter Milan and the permanent return of £25million. pounds from Timo Werner to RB Leipzig. That left Chelsea without a recognized goalscorer until a last-minute decision to sign Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 33, for £10m from Barcelona at the end of the summer transfer window.
Boehly also oversaw the £171m outlay on defenders Kalidou Koulibaly (£33m), Marc Cucurella (£63m) and Wesley Fofana (£75m) after launching his scheme with the £47.5million signing of England winger Raheem Sterling from Manchester City.
The club are now hoping to sign RB Leipzig striker Christopher Nkunku and defender Josko Gvardiol, although sources have said Chelsea have already agreed a £32m deal to land 21-year-old centre-back Benoit Badiashile from Monaco . They are also ready to trigger 21-year-old Enzo Fernandez’s £106million release clause at Benfica after the Argentina midfielder starred at the World Cup.
Under Boehly, Chelsea have overpaid the majority of their signings, and none of them have yet done enough to justify the outlay. All of the above suggests a new owner playing fantasy football rather than a club with a clear strategy of what is needed in the transfer market. Potter has kept a dignified silence on player ins and outs so far, but with Chelsea having a plus-2 goal difference and Sterling and Kai Havertz their top scorers in the Premier League with just four goals each, it’s clear where Chelsea’s priorities should lie during the January window.
Potter was hired to coach the team and leave player recruitment to others, so he’ll have to work with what he has and what those above him think he needs. But there are too many question marks over this Chelsea team and too many players who don’t deliver. Potter has to take some responsibility for that, and he just has to do better with the tools at his disposal, but his bosses also have to do better.
Football is littered with clubs and owners who think throwing money at a problem is the quickest way to success, but those who succeed are usually those who get their money’s worth with smart, cheap signings. Potter will inevitably pay the price if Chelsea don’t learn this lesson, but he won’t be solely responsible if it doesn’t work out for him at Stamford Bridge.
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