Chelsea have spent £274 million on new players and changed managers since the end of last season, but they somehow made their team worse. It’s an achievement by the club’s new owners, a consortium led by Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly. But for now, at least, manager Graham Potter bears most of the criticism for poor results and uninspired performances.
That’s how it always goes and Potter, whose side sit eighth in the Premier League, seven points behind fourth-placed Manchester United, is under no illusion that his fortunes are always directly linked to results on the pitch. At the moment, the results are dismal (two wins from seven, including four defeats) and with two games against Manchester City this week – in the Premier League and the FA Cup – it could get a lot worse before it gets better.
When Potter arrived to succeed the sacked Thomas Tuchel at Brighton in September, the Chelsea hierarchy, led by co-owner Boehly, sold him their vision of a new Chelsea. It was a club that would take a long-term view and plan accordingly, which would adopt a more collegial approach and give the bright young coach time to align his methods with the team.
Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea of old, where managers were hired and fired as often as they won major trophies, was apparently a thing of the past. But perhaps the idea was as naive as Chelsea’s recruitment after the change of ownership. That naivety is now starting to make Potter’s job much more difficult. The 47-year-old is struggling to get to grips with the challenge of managing a club the size of Chelsea and needs help, but he is 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 charge of 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 in charge.
The recent hiring of former RB Leipzig technical director Christopher Vivell in a similar role at Chelsea should bring expertise to the football department, but for the foreseeable future Potter will still have to deal with the hand Boehly has dealt him: an unbalanced squad. which is full of defenders and desperately short of goalscorers. The manager can be blamed for failing to get many of his players to perform as expected, but it is doubtful that he would have signed many of them in the first place.
Mark Ogden is worried about Chelsea’s season after a disappointing 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest.
During Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest, Chelsea looked like a team assembled without a coherent plan or strategy. And it’s not far from the truth.
Potter had nothing to do with the club losing Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen as free agents to Real Madrid and Barcelona over the summer. Boehly was also helpless to stop defenders leaving the club, but the new owner sanctioned the £97.5m loan of striker Romelu Lukaku to Inter Milan and the £25m permanent return of Timo Werner to RB Leipzig. This left Chelsea without a recognized goalscorer until a last-minute decision to sign 33-year-old Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for £10m from Barcelona at the end of the summer transfer window.
Boehly also oversaw a £171m bid for defenders Kalidou Koulibaly (£33m), Marc Cucurella (£63m) and Wesley Fofana (£75m) after starting his reign with a £47.5m deal for England winger Raheem Sterling from Manchester From City.
The club are now hoping to sign RB Leipzig forward Christopher Nkuku and defender Josko Guardioli, although sources say Chelsea have already agreed a £32m deal to sign 21-year-old centre-back Benoit Badiashile from Monaco. They are also ready to trigger 21-year-old Enzo Fernandez’s £106m release clause at Benfica after the Argentine midfielder starred at the World Cup.
Under Boehly, Chelsea have overpaid for most of their signings and none of them have yet done enough to justify the cost. All of the above suggests that the new owner is playing fantasy football rather than the club having a clear strategy of what is needed in the transfer market. Potter has so far kept a dignified silence on the comings and goings of players, but with Chelsea’s goal difference at plus-2 and Sterling and Kai Havertz leading the Premier League with just four goals each, it’s clear where Chelsea’s priorities should lie. lie during the January window.
Potter is hired to coach the team and leave player recruitment to others, so he has to work with what he has and what those above him think he needs. But this Chelsea squad has too many question marks and too many players who aren’t performing. Potter has to take some responsibility for that and he just has to make do with the tools at his disposal, but his boss also has to do better.
Football is full of clubs and owners who think that throwing money at a problem is the fastest way to success, but the successful ones tend to be the ones who get value for money with smart signings, not expensive ones. Potter will inevitably pay the price if Chelsea don’t learn that lesson, but he won’t be solely responsible if it doesn’t work for him at Stamford Bridge.