under pressure | 

Paul McGrath – Why Chelsea boss Graham Potter is on the brink

Chelsea owner Todd Boehly didn’t invest billions to languish in mid-table

Graham Potter, manager of Chelsea during the Premier League match between Nottingham Forest and Chelsea at the City Ground, Nottingham on Sunday 1st January 2023. (Photo by Jon Hobley/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)© NurPhoto via Getty Images

Chelsea's Charlie Cooke (Photo by Hugh Hastings/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)© Chelsea FC via Getty Images

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 05: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Chelsea in action with Phil Foden of Manchester City during the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on January 5, 2023 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)© Getty Images

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 05: Raheem Sterling of Chelsea reacts after suffering an injury during the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on January 5, 2023 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)© Getty Images

COBHAM, ENGLAND - JANUARY 05: Chelsea unveil new signing Benoit Badiashile at Chelsea Training Ground on January 5, 2023 in Cobham, England. (Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)© Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Sunday World

Manchester United and Aston Villa are the two clubs with whom I played for most of my career, but Chelsea were my boyhood club and Charlie Cooke, the great winger, was my boyhood hero

How Chelsea could do with Charlie and a few others of that time – Ron Harris, David Webb, Peter Osgood, etc – now as they struggle in mid-table in the Premier League.

Not even FA Cup third-round weekend has brought the Dark Blues any respite.

They must go to the Etihad to play Manchester City this afternoon – talk about the luck of the draw.

In fact, any luck Chelsea have had of late has been only bad luck.

They went into last Thursday’s match against City without the injured Reece James, Ben Chilwell and Mason Mount.

And then they lost Raheem Sterling after only 10 minutes and Christian Pulisic after half an hour.

Still, they only lost the match to a moment of lost concentration on a Jack Grealish cross, when neither Kepa in goal nor full-back Marc Cucurella dealt with the ball confidently.

Of those absent players, only Pulisic has a chance of playing today.

Talk about playing the champions with one hand tied behind your back!

But all the talk of bad luck is of no use to manager Graham Potter.

He was always going to be under the microscope as the first English manager to get a shot at leading a ‘big’ club in recent times.

But new Chelsea owner Todd Boehly did not fork out billions of dollars to buy the club for it to languish in mid-table, with no chance of being in next season’s Champions League unless they somehow win the competition this year.

Chelsea owner Todd Boehly prior to the Premier League match at Stamford Bridge, London. Picture date: Saturday October 22, 2022.© PA

Boehly has backed Potter in the transfer market. No club spent more money that Chelsea last summer, and last week they grabbed Benoit Badiashile from Monaco for £35million and gave him a seven-and-a-half year contract. Wow!

Now Chelsea’s centre-half corps is not a young one, so getting 21-year-old Badiashile could turn out to be a very good move, but the length of the contract stunned many observers.

If the lad turns out to be the latest top player off the superb French production line of talent that was so evident at the World Cup, then all is well.

If he’s a bust that Chelsea will try to get rid of in 2025, then it is going to cost them a lot of money to get someone to take him off their books.

But even all the money Boehly has spent is only playing catch-up with the Premier League’s elite.

Because Chelsea had a season-long ban from the transfer market not so long ago.

Things moved on, even in that one year. Almost casually, Manchester City were able to bring on and off players who cost, or would cost, millions of pounds to buy.

Phil Foden, Joao Cancelo, Kyle Walker, Bernardo Silva and Grealish being just some of them.

For all that they have spent, Chelsea just do not have squad depth of that quality.

Manchester City's Riyad Mahrez celebrates scoring their side's first goal of the game during the Premier League match at Stamford Bridge, London. Picture date: Thursday January 5, 2023.© PA

Going out of the FA Cup today would heap unfair pressure on Potter, but that is just the way of the world.

He’ll be hoping that Pep Guardiola decides to rest a few big names today.

After all, the FA Cup is a very poor third on Manchester City’s list of priorities this season – behind retaining the Premier League title and, of course, winning the elusive Champions League. It is the one blot – and a major blot at that – on Pep’s success-splashed reign at the Etihad.

Trouble is, even resting a few big names would still result in City having a seriously strong team out.

Football isn’t fair and if Chelsea lose today, the owners have a choice.

Do they persist with Potter or take the financial hit in firing him and his staff, then go for a big-name manager to try and restore the club to the heights?

The better Eddie Howe does with Newcastle, the worse it gets for Potter.

There’s a young English football manager who has had success, relatively so, with both Bournemouth and Newcastle. So it can be done.

So far, the Chelsea supporters have stood with Potter, which seems fair enough, and that will stand to him.

As it is, there is no clamour from the fans for change, they perhaps realise that Roman Abramovich’s constant hiring and firing has helped to put the club in its current pickle.

But the biggest danger for Graham Potter with a defeat this afternoon may be that the bright lights of West London will always have an allure for the best of football managers. Chelsea is a job anyone would want!

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