Graham Potter to Chelsea: Why the Blues wanted to bring the Brighton boss’ magical touch to Stamford Bridge

Graham Potter

If Chelsea are serious about rebuilding the club from top to bottom, a long-term job whoever is in charge, they have chosen a man who ticks many of the right boxes in Brighton’s Graham Potter.

Six games into the new season, his now ex-Seagulls sit three points and two places above Chelsea in the table, despite significantly fewer resources than the Blues and any of the other teams around them.

However, it is not about this small sample. What Potter has been building in Brighton has been much longer. The obvious product of his philosophy has been his brand of passing football, but his work on the south coast has gone far beyond the tactical board.

Now his success has proved enough for Chelsea owner Todd Boehly to decide the 47-year-old is better suited to lead his new club than a man who took them to the Champions League just 15 months ago.

This decision to pull the trigger just 100 days into his ownership will raise eyebrows over the appointment of a man like Potter, who finished 15th and 16th in his first two seasons at the Amex Stadium.

“If I were Graham Potter, I’d have a hard time believing they’d do things any other way,” he said. Sky Sports Jamie Carragher, like the Blues, parted ways with a sixth permanent manager in 10 years.

But if Boehly’s reason was, as he has privately claimed, to appoint a manager whose long-term vision can better align with the sacking of Thomas Tuchel, while still lingering, it may turn out to be a shrewder move than it seemed at the time.

The American billionaire deserves the benefit of the doubt. One of his other sports ventures, the LA Dodgers baseball team, has had the same manager since 2015, and it’s no wonder the new owners want their own man at the helm.

“Ultimately, if you can align a good hiring process and identity with a good environment, you can gain belief and momentum.”

That’s what Potter said Sky Sports about how he sewed the seeds of his managerial career at Ostersunds, the Swedish minnows he brought from the fourth tier to European football. But it sounds just as true to how Boehly wants to run one of the biggest clubs in the world.

Since walking through the door at the Amex in 2019, he has played a major role in turning Brighton into one of the most cohesive units in the Premier League, operating on a net spend of £30m in profits.

The Seagulls have made a name for themselves for their tactical flexibility and back-to-front football, all the more impressive given the more pragmatic style favored by their predecessor Chris Hughton. This compares to Tuchel’s Chelsea who, even in their brightest moments, always struggled to establish a clear identity.

Look at how Leandro Trossard has come since joining the same summer as Potter. Signed as a full-back, he has played as a number 10, a false nine, in midfield and more recently at full-back, and impressed in all roles.

Would many other coaches look at 6ft 6in center Dan Burn in training and turn him into a left back? The list goes on: Pascal Gross, Steven Alzate, Joel Veltman, Alexis MacAllister. The versatility of his team has been almost unmatched throughout the division.

It requires players with the ability to mold, but it should be a clear sign of a manager who understands the strengths of his players and can improve them.

Tuchel made his own mark on that front, unleashing Antonio Rudiger’s potential as one of the Premier League’s strongest centre-backs, but more recently his good work with full-back Reece James has been overshadowed by the unfortunate decision to transfer the best of Chelsea. crosser to the right central defender.

“[Graham’s] The main strengths are how he game plans and what he wants us to do,” Mac Allister said Sky Sports News this week.

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Speaking in January 2021, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said he was a “big fan” of Brighton boss Graham Potter.

“Tactically he is amazing, the coaching staff is very good, they always try to help us in every aspect. He is very important for us, and I am very happy to work with him.”

Brighton bank account backs up your credentials. Marc Cucurella, signed only last summer, was sold to his new club Chelsea last month for a £40m profit. Yves Bissouma has moved to Champions League side Spurs, while Moses Caicedo is a January target for Liverpool.

Potter certainly improves players and Chelsea’s acquisition of Kyle Macauley, a recruitment analyst who has followed him from Ostersunds to the Amex, could be another plus.

He is recognized as the mastermind behind the signing of Cucurella, as well as the club’s impressive purchases in South America, including Caicedo.

Tuchel’s strained relationship with Chelsea’s new owners and their playing staff contributed to their downfall and helped put the writing on the wall at Cobham as they toyed with the idea of ​​a change, but the calm temperament de Potter should serve him better at Stamford Bridge.

Even from his early days in Sweden, he has prioritized building his players and staff as both people and footballers, and at Ostersunds he developed a ‘culture academy’ to challenge them outside of their normal roles, from from creating your own art exhibition to doing it. part in a performance of the Swan Lake ballet.

“It was about being open to new things, removing the barriers that sometimes exist in a team, all the hierarchies and developing players as people,” Potter said. Sky Sports. “You can see people on a human level.”

Raheem Sterling and Ben Chilwell probably won’t be learning to pirouette any time soon, but Potter’s philosophy remains the same and has shown in his relationship with his players in his most recent work.

“He’s a players’ manager,” said former Swansea winger Nathan Dyer Sky Sports News. “He’s a problem solver. Tactically, he’s amazing at making sure that when you get on the pitch, everyone knows what he’s doing. What he’ll bring to Chelsea is exactly that.

“He’s a very calm person, and if he wants you to do something on the field, he takes responsibility if it goes wrong. He’s never there to throw anybody under the bus.”

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Nathan Dyer reflects on his time under Graham Potter at Swansea, speaking highly of his former boss

The issue of motivation also presents his biggest question mark, as it does for all managers without an elite club on their CV. Potter has been tipped for a top-flight job for some time, but with a managerial history consisting of Ostersunds, Swansea and Brighton, he is largely untested working with world-class players and the demands they bring on and off the pitch. game

He wouldn’t be the first talented manager to struggle to get the buy-in required from a team that can often be hard to impress. Chelsea’s long run of managerial appointments has been due almost as much to dressing room sentiment as to the high demands of Roman Abramovich.

But there are promising signs to be found in the respect he has built up with the likes of Adam Lallana, recently signed after winning the Premier League with Liverpool in 2020, and Manchester United and Arsenal veteran Danny Welbeck.

While some managers may struggle to adapt to the more possession-focused forward-footed game of the top teams, Brighton have been doing it since they walked through the gate, and in some of those key metrics, they were already right with his new team’s top six rivals last season.

“Graham, from my experience of him, is a very deep thinker,” Lallana said earlier this year. “He and his staff work 12-hour days that you have to do if you want to be the best, you can’t leave any stone unturned.

“There are so many different dynamics in the team that you have to look at. You’ve got a squad of 25 players, each one at a different stage in their career and life with different issues, but Graham and his team really do . covers all the bases.”

Boehly’s hopes of Potter building a new ethos in Chelsea’s academy have only a limited history of bringing youth in, although Ben White’s rise to the top and Robert Sanchez’s performances alone make a strong case for his career.

Either way, the top crop in west London will be at a different level to what he’s used to at Brighton, and his belief in process and team thinking will serve him well in building that unit at Cobham.

There are no certainties in football, let alone when taking a chance with an unproven coach at the highest level of elite football. But if anyone is ready to step up and make his mark at a club like Chelsea, it’s Potter. Now, he just has to wait until he has time to do it.

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