Premier League

OLIVER HOLT: Potter isn’t the one who has to change. Even Pep would be out of his depth at Chelsea

Daily Mail Online

Graham doesn’t quite fit, does he? His clothes aren’t quite flash enough. His beard is not quite stubbly enough. He is not a self-promoter. He does not hare up and down the touchline, gesticulating and screaming at imagined injustices. 

He does not have battalions of nodding-donkey acolytes at his elbow. He is not rude to the media. There’s something about him that doesn’t scream ‘elite’ in the Premier League way we have grown accustomed to.

He has been manager of Chelsea for only four months — and most of his players were in Qatar for six weeks of that — but results have not gone well and even before Thursday night’s defeat by Fulham, a section of Chelsea fans had decided he was not for them. They began to make their displeasure known in song. 

Graham Potter has only been in charge of Chelsea for four months but it is all going wrong for him Graham Potter has only been in charge of Chelsea for four months but it is all going wrong for him

Graham Potter has only been in charge of Chelsea for four months but it is all going wrong for him

The Blues fell to their seventh defeat in 10 matches with former winger Willian scoring against them for Fulham The Blues fell to their seventh defeat in 10 matches with former winger Willian scoring against them for Fulham

The Blues fell to their seventh defeat in 10 matches with former winger Willian scoring against them for Fulham

For those critics, and for new ones, that defeat was the proof they needed that Potter was out of his depth.

Out of his depth? Maybe he is. But then look at the way Chelsea are now and it is obvious that Pep Guardiola would be out of his depth, too. 

The way they are run at the moment, Chelsea reside in the football equivalent of an ocean trench. Sir Alex Ferguson would have been out of his depth there, too. There is a reason why neither of them was ever tempted to take the reins in that part of London.

Remember how Carlo Ancelotti, the only man to have won the Champions League four times, got on at Stamford Bridge? That’s right, he won the Double in his first season and then he was sacked in a corridor at Goodison Park for finishing second in the league in his second season. 

He won plenty before he managed Chelsea and he has won plenty more since he left. But at Chelsea? One way or another, he was out of his depth as well.

The club seem more dysfunctional now than they have ever been. They just paid £9million to sign a player, Joao Felix, on loan for five months. 

When Felix got sent off at Craven Cottage in his first appearance, it meant Chelsea will pay more than £2m for him to sit in the stands while he serves a three-game ban. 

Dysfunctional Chelsea have just paid £9million to sign Joao Felix, on loan for five months - and he got sent off on his debut Dysfunctional Chelsea have just paid £9million to sign Joao Felix, on loan for five months - and he got sent off on his debut

Dysfunctional Chelsea have just paid £9million to sign Joao Felix, on loan for five months – and he got sent off on his debut

Even successful Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola would be out of his depth at this Chelsea Even successful Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola would be out of his depth at this Chelsea

Even successful Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola would be out of his depth at this Chelsea

As would former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson. Potter is not the problem for Chelsea As would former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson. Potter is not the problem for Chelsea

As would former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson. Potter is not the problem for Chelsea

The situation feels like football madness personified. It feels like excess personified. However good he is, Felix and Chelsea are football gone wrong.

If you want examples of dysfunction in the English football pyramid, I might point you first to the sorry story of Scunthorpe United and there are others to mention in despatches, but Chelsea are not far behind. It is not that they have financial worries, but that doesn’t mean there is not an aura of chaos enveloping them. 

They are throwing money at the walls to try to fix their problems and not much of it is sticking.

Look at their forward line in the Fulham match. Felix was thrown straight in alongside Kai Havertz. Chelsea paid £89m for Havertz in 2020. 

He was supposed to be a ‘generational talent’ and he did score the winner in the Champions League final of 2021. Since then? Close to nothing. He’s been a huge disappointment. The fact is, a lot of Chelsea signings have been huge disappointments.

Hakim Ziyech looked like a world beater for Ajax and for Morocco at the World Cup. At Chelsea, he has always looked like a lost soul. Timo Werner came and went at vast expense. 

And now we can add Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to the list. Potter’s predecessor, Thomas Tuchel, persuaded Chelsea to sign the player because he had had a good relationship with him at Borussia Dortmund. 

Hakim Ziyech looked like a world beater for Ajax and for Morocco at the World Cup. At Chelsea, he has always looked like a lost soul Hakim Ziyech looked like a world beater for Ajax and for Morocco at the World Cup. At Chelsea, he has always looked like a lost soul

Hakim Ziyech looked like a world beater for Ajax and for Morocco at the World Cup. At Chelsea, he has always looked like a lost soul

Havertz was supposed to be a 'generational talent' and he did score the winner in the Champions League final of 2021. Since then? Close to nothing Havertz was supposed to be a 'generational talent' and he did score the winner in the Champions League final of 2021. Since then? Close to nothing

Havertz was supposed to be a ‘generational talent’ and he did score the winner in the Champions League final of 2021. Since then? Close to nothing

Then Chelsea sacked Tuchel and Aubameyang, who was run out of town by Arsenal and Barcelona, has been another ruinously expensive bust.

Add to that a new owner in Todd Boehly who is fast garnering a reputation as the new Father Christmas of English football, splurging fat wages on long contracts for modern-day Seth Johnsons. 

At least Boehly has stepped back from being Chelsea’s interim sporting director. Because that went well, didn’t it. Maybe now he can spend more time with his All Star Game.

There’s an scene in Apocalypse Now where Colonel Kurtz looks at Captain Willard amid the anarchy and the horrors of his jungle lair: ‘Are my methods unsound?’ he asks. Captain Willard looks back at him and says: ‘I don’t see any method at all, sir.’ It’s the same with the Chelsea ownership. 

Chelsea culled most of the people who knew how to run the club when Boehly took over and it shows Chelsea culled most of the people who knew how to run the club when Boehly took over and it shows

Chelsea culled most of the people who knew how to run the club when Boehly took over and it shows

If it moves and it costs a lot of money, sign it. Apart from that, I don’t see any method at all. Chelsea culled most of the people who knew how to run the club when Boehly took over and it shows. Sure, even amid that chaos, even amid the epidemic of injuries that has afflicted his team so badly, 

Potter needs to start conjuring results from somewhere, starting with the game at home to Crystal Palace today. If that’s not must-win for the manager, it’s close to it because Chelsea are mid-table and slipping further and further away from the top four and we all know where that will lead if things don’t improve.

But this is the crux of it: Potter does not need to change. Chelsea needs to change. Potter is still the same able, bright, tactically astute, modern manager Chelsea signed from Brighton & Hove Albion. 

He’s not the type of manager who comes in and blows everyone away with the force of his personality and blasts of arrogance. His methodology takes time to impose but, if he is given time, he will change the face of Chelsea.

That is the challenge for Boehly and the Chelsea hierarchy. They say they want to do things differently from before. They say they will not be as trigger-happy as Abramovich was. 

They say they want to create a new culture at the club and usher in an era of stability. 

They say they will give Potter time. Now they have to prove it. And if they prove it, then maybe we will start to see method after all. If they do not, madness will reign.

 

BALE STILL MAKES MY TOP 10 

Gareth Bale, who announced his retirement from football last week, was a player who often took the breath away and deserves to be remembered as one of the greatest the British Isles have produced.

He is still damned with faint praise by some but he makes it into my top 10, which I’m sure will be a relief to him. Lists like this are made to be dissected and picked apart for flaws and contradictions and mine is no different.

Anyway, here it is:

1.&#16…

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