The start of this season has brought a lot of sensation and surprise for Chelsea fans. In September, the London club, which since May 2022 has been taken over by a consortium led by American Todd Boely, made perhaps the first personnel decision that received a wide response in the football community – Thomas Tuchel was fired from the post of head coach of the team.
And if the parting with the German specialist could be partially attributed to the desire of the new owners to put a coach at the head of the team, whom they chose, and not the previous management, for which a convenient reason presented itself in the form of failures at the start of the season, then here is the arrival of Tuchel in place rather modest Graham Potter from Brighton turned out to be the second resonant decision of Boeli and his partners.
Before Chelsea, the 47-year-old Potter had never coached a team that could match the status of the Blues. Thus, as English observers noted back in September, Boely and the London club did not give a damn about the unspoken rule that has existed in recent years for the top 6 clubs in the Premier League – to appoint as head coach a specialist who has extensive club experience, or who has achieved tangible success abroad . Potter’s resume didn’t have either, but that didn’t stop Graham from getting a five-year deal at Chelsea worth £12m a season.
It was clear that Potter’s arrival at Chelsea was an incredible risk that the new owners of the club decided to consciously take, seeking to surprise the English Premier League with the audacity of their plans and actions. At Brighton, Graham had nowhere near the high “bar of expectations” that instantly set up for him and his assistants at Chelsea. In addition, during his entire coaching career before working with the Blues, Potter spent £82 million on the transfer market, which is less than in January, taking into account all the bonuses and additional payments, the Londoners paid for Shakhtar winger Mykhailo Mudryk alone (in the deal with the Pitmen is about 88 million pounds).
Getty Images/Global Images Ukraine. Graham Potter
There was no reason for Potter to turn down an offer from Chelsea. In addition to an excellent salary, Graham in London also received an opportunity for career growth, because success at Brighton was what the mentor needed in order to take a step forward over time. Therefore, Chelsea could not and cannot have any claims to Potter in this aspect. He did and did absolutely everything he could. After all, he’s not a wizard, and his name is Graham, not Harry…
It would seem that this is well understood in Chelsea itself. As well as the fact that the main advantage of Potter, which he previously managed to demonstrate in all its glory in Östersund and Brighton, is the ability to work for the future, that is, “in the long run”. Graham wasn’t just called a “project manager” in the press. He earned this nickname by systematic and structured work aimed at gradually improving the results of the team in order to reach its peak after a certain period.
And the first statements that were made from the Chelsea management after the arrival of Potter made it clear that Graham, at least this season, would have an inexhaustible credit of trust, and that the specialist would not lose his position even if the Blues finished outside the top 4 and will not qualify for the Champions League. Even then, such words evoked only a sarcastic smile from hardened skeptics, but on the whole they seemed absolutely logical – in the end, Potter was deprived of the opportunity to go through a full pre-season with Chelsea, and ask him to the fullest extent after nine months of cooperation (then is, in May) would be the height of recklessness, especially given the long-term contract concluded with Graham.
Todd Boeli really stood out significantly from most of his colleagues from the top clubs in the English Premier League. But this did not last long … In early April, immediately after a sensational home defeat against Aston Villa (0: 2), the boss of the Blues seemed to give up completely and moved away from all those principles that were declared at the beginning of the seemingly promising cooperation with Potter. Graham was sacked, and the official communiqué issued on the occasion contained the key phrase that summed up Potter’s work at Chelsea in a bold line – “we are all disappointed with this result.”
Getty Images/Global Images Ukraine. Todd Boely
According to British insiders, the decision to sack Potter was taken by Chelsea’s management team led by Boely after pressure from Paul Winstanley (Director of Global Talent and Transfers) and Lawrence Stewart (Technical Director) to sack Potter. Allegedly, it was the latter two who became the main driving force that provoked the club to agree to an early termination of cooperation with Potter.
For the vast majority of Chelsea first team players, the management’s decision to sack Potter came as a complete surprise. According to The Telegraph, the players were caught off guard when they learned of the head coach’s dismissal from a statement on the official website. After that, many of them “began to call their agents, being in a state of shock and trying to figure out what awaits them in the near future.”
The randomness in the decision to fire Potter was also manifested in the fact that Chelsea, it seems, right now does not have a ready-made candidate to replace the English specialist. Interim head coach of the London team in the near future will be Potter’s ex-assistant 42-year-old Spaniard Bruno Saltor, who is unlikely to get a chance to lead the Blues on a full basis, unless he wins, as Roberto Di Matteo once did, the Champions League …
And if the decision to dismiss Potter suggested itself, based purely on the logic of momentary achievements and the results of the team, then in terms of managerial insight and the general logic of actions, it was the first serious fiasco for Todd Boeli at the head of Chelsea. It is no coincidence that the legendary ex-footballer of Liverpool and England, and now an expert on British television, Jamie Carragher, has already managed to play a trick on the main figure of the Blues, who tweeted the following: “Todd said that he would be different from Roman [Абрамовича]. I sympathize with Graham Potter, but it was inevitable. You can’t change Tuchel for Potter. A ridiculous decision to start.
Todd said he would be different to Roman 😂😂
I feel for Graham Potter, but it was inevitable. You don’t change Tuchel for Potter. Ridiculous decision to start with. https://t.co/twZpL1D23H
— Jamie Carragher (@Carra23) April 2, 2023
Boeli has fired two head coaches in less than a year as Chelsea boss. Of course, the American is still quite far from the leapfrog named after Abramovich, which Carragher subtly hints at, but it is hardly necessary to speak of design decisions that fit into the club’s specifically built and balanced strategy in such a development of events …
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