Chelsea’s worst manager EVER? Where it all went wrong for Graham Potter
Todd Boehly and the Clearlake Capital consortium's big gamble has backfired - in spectacular fashion. Chelsea's new owners made a huge statement of intent when they ruthlessly sacked Thomas Tuchel last September before bringing in Graham Potter as the German's replacement, prising him away from Brighton on a five-year contract.
Potter worked wonders at the Amex Stadium, but questions were immediately raised over whether he could handle the pressure of life at one of the world's biggest clubs. As it turned out, he simply wasn't up to the task.
Chelsea recorded 11 defeats and eight draws alongside just 12 victories during the 47-year-old's ill-fated reign, with a dismal 2-0 home loss to Aston Villa on Saturday proving to be the final straw for the board.
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Boehly's man was given a lengthy stay of execution that would not have been afforded to any of his predecessors that served under Roman Abramovich, and the Blues are languishing down in 11th in the Premier League as a result of that misguided patience.
So where exactly did it it all go so wrong for Potter at Stamford Bridge? GOAL takes a look below...
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Following in Tuchel's footsteps
It could certainly be argued that Potter was doomed from the start at Chelsea.
The club's decision to sack Tuchel just six games into the 2022-23 campaign did not go down well with supporters. Yes, the Blues started badly after a major summer overhaul, but few would have bet against Tuchel steadying the ship.
The former Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain boss delivered Chelsea's second Champions League title less than five months after moving to west London, before adding the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup to his trophy haul in what turned out to be his only full season in charge.
Tuchel also guided Chelsea to three other cup finals and back-to-back top-four finishes in the Premier League, while endearing himself to fans with his eccentricity and passion on the touchline.
Potter is an impressive coach in his own right, but he didn't have anywhere near the same level of experience as Tuchel at the very highest level. He is also far more laid-back - a softly-spoken manager not usually prone to angry outbursts or emotional decision-making.
Tuchel kicked every ball as if he was on the pitch too, and the Chelsea faithful loved him for it. It was evident right from the off that Potter did not have the same charismatic presence, which goes some way to explaining why he lost the dressing room so quickly.
Bayern Munich wasted no time bringing Tuchel on board after losing faith in Julian Nagelsmann last month, and could go on to clinch a treble under the guidance of a true serial winner. Potter, meanwhile, may never get the chance to manage on the elite stage again.
Baffling selection choices
Potter was gifted with a huge squad upon his arrival at Chelsea, but after a January transfer window that saw the club fork out over £300 million on more new players, it became a bloated one.
As a result, Potter never seemed to know his best XI, and consistency proved elusive as he experimented with different systems and rotated players in and out game-by-game.
He famously made seven changes to his lineup after Chelsea's 1-0 defeat to Borussia Dortmund in the first leg of their round of 16 Champions League tie, with winter signings Noni Madueke and David Datro Fofana among those drafted in for a home clash with Southampton.
Potter was punished as the relegation-threatened Saints picked up a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge, and he hit a new low the following week in a London derby clash with Tottenham - which is when the alarm bells started to ring in the boardroom, according to The Mirror.
Hakim Ziyech started that contest, just weeks after pushing for a deadline-day transfer to PSG, and he was lucky not to get sent off after a petulant first-half showing. He eventually came off in the 62nd minute with Chelsea 1-0 down, but Potter opted to bring on defensive midfielder Denis Zakaria in his place instead of throwing on another attacker and going all out for an equaliser.
The Blues went on to lose 2-0, and although a subsequent three-match winning run eased some pressure on Potter, it always felt like another moment of madness was close by.
It eventually came against Villa at the weekend, as he opted to start Reece James and Marc Cucurella either side of Kalidou Koulibaly in a three-man defensive line. Benoit Badiashile and Trevoh Chalobah had to watch on from the bench, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek struggled to make any impact on the game after being deployed in James' usual spot at right-wing back.
Cucurella was also brutally exposed and sure enough, Chelsea left the Bridge empty-handed - and Boehly had finally seen enough to ditch his ill-advised long-term plan.
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Mr Nice Guy approach
For better or worse, Potter always tried to shield his players from blame in the media, even when it was painfully obvious that certain individuals had not been performing to the required level.
He refrained from criticising the likes of Cucurella, Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang and Mykhailo Mudryk, appearing calm after bad results while trying to focus on positives rather than negatives.
The likes of Tuchel, Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte were never so diplomatic. They always spoke their mind and if necessary, called out those who needed a kick into action.
After Chelsea's disappointing 1-1 draw at West Ham on February 11, Potter was quizzed on his nice-guy persona, and gave a telling response. "As I've said strongly, I believe you can only be yourself," he said. "The players are confident. They are hard-working and respectful. They believe in themselves."
He insisted that his underperforming group "gave everything" after the Tottenham loss later that month, and became a figure of ridicule on social media for his refusal to acknowledge their faults.
It was the same story after the Villa game. "The players gave everything today, as much as we’re all disappointed with the result," Potter said. "The attack was there. The scoreline is painful for us. The players are honest. They want to do better. We’re there fighting for each other, fighting together. There’s no complaints about how the supporters respond."
Potter was clearly unaware that nice guys usually finish last. If a manager doesn't demand the highest possible standards, laziness and resentment will naturally set in. He did not command the respect of a squad full of world-class talent and big egos, which is the main reason why he was unable to bring success to the club.
Failure to motivate new signings
Chelsea's record-breaking winter transfer window saw them bring in a grand total of eight new players, including £106 million man Enzo Fernandez, Mudryk, Badiashile and Madueke.
Joao Felix was also acquired on loan from Atletico Madrid, and has shone the brightest for the Blues, but his record of two goals from eight appearances is not good enough for a player of his talents.
The same accusation can be pointed at the rest of Chelsea's fresh faces, with none of them making a big enough impact to change the team's fortunes and inspire a positive change in collective morale.
Fernandez has shown flashes of the brilliance that saw him emerge as a superstar for Argentina at the 2022 World Cup, but hasn't justified his price tag yet, while Madueke has been unable to force his way into the starting XI.
Mudryk's poor form has been the biggest concern for the Blues, however, with the Ukrainian winger still looking for his first goal after eight underwhelming outings.
Chelsea went to great lengths to beat Arsenal to the 22-year-old's signature, but he has looked out of his depth in the Premier League so far, and it certainly felt like Potter was being too soft on him.
"It’s not easy for him to arrive in the middle of pre-season for him," he said of Mudryk's struggles before the international break. "To come to a new country, new club, new league, and hit his maximum level. I know people look at the fee, but it doesn’t change the situation that he’s in. We’re positive about him, we’re positive about the future for him. But we need to help him settle and help him understand what he needs to do to help us."
A big personality is needed to motivate players like Mudryk and Fernandez - who are both still very much at the start of their careers and need a firm hand to unlock their full potential. Potter's delicate approach encouraged mediocrity.
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'Mid-table manager' mindset
Before Chelsea were beaten 1-0 at home by reigning Premier League champions Manchester City on January 5, Potter issued a glaringly weak rallying cry to his squad.
"As much as we want to win – and I don’t want to sound like it’s acceptable to lose, it’s not – but unfortunately part of the game is dropping points, is not succeeding, you’ve got to suffer and get better," he told reporters.
The Blues were thrashed 4-0 by City at the Etihad Stadium in a third-round FA Cup clash three days later, with Potter branded a "mid-table manager" in some quarters after the doubleheader.
More recently, Potter addressed his standing among the Chelsea faithful with another unconvincing statement, saying: "I know there’s nothing I can say that’s going to make the supporters - if they are against us - with us. The solution is you have to win football matches."
Brighton secured their highest-ever top-flight finish of ninth in Potter's last season at the helm. They were a tough side to beat under his stewardship and played attractive football, which meant he had exceeded expectations at a club that doesn't have the resources to compete with the top six.
Potter was never able to get out of that mindset at Chelsea. He treated losses and draws as acceptable setbacks and that gave his players free license to shirk off and perform below their maximum.
The former Brighton head coach leaves the Bridge with the joint-worst points-per-game tally of any Chelsea manager in the Premier League era (1.27) - matching Glenn Hoddle. Ruud Gullit (1.65) and Frank Lampard (1.67) come in third and fourth on that list.
Statistically speaking, Potter is not the worst Chelsea manager ever with a win percentage of 38%, but only Guus Hiddink - in his second spell - has posted a lower number (37%) since the turn of the century.
Potter's departure opens the door for the likes of Julian Nagelsmann, Mauricio Pochettino and Zinedine Zidane to return to top-level management - which the departing boss was never cut out for in the first place.