The manager was quickly sacked last time Chelsea suffered three Premier League defeats. But history does not repeat itself.
Chelsea’s 1-0 defeat at Newcastle on Saturday meant Graham Potter emulated Jose Mourinho’s inimitable feat of seven years ago (he lost to West Ham, Stoke and Liverpool between October-November and was sacked in December 2015).
Posts from anyone who goes on social media or reads some of the comments below Athletics Defeats at Brighton, Arsenal and St James’ Park will see the majority of supporters expecting the same fate for Potter.
However, they are in for disappointment. Athletics The sources, who want to remain anonymous to protect their jobs, have made clear the club’s new owners’ support for Potter and the long-term project they share have not wavered.
In fact, this was communicated to the Englishman a few days ago. Before anyone misinterprets this, it should not be mistaken for a vote of confidence, the phrase often used when a manager on the brink of the sack gets unconvincing public backing from the hierarchy only to quickly leave.
No club looked forward to the World Cup break more than Chelsea. It is not a recent development. The 45-day gap between fixtures was earmarked by the club’s owners as a key period in the summer long before the 2022-23 campaign got under way.
The feeling was understandable. Tensions over the takeover process have been constant since it began in March, with the first transfer window to navigate and then trying to implement ambitious plans, including various staff changes to make things work behind the scenes. They have invested in new facilities, particularly Stamford Bridge, to improve the matchday experience for fans.
Reconstruction or revolution? How Chelsea’s hierarchy have changed beyond recognition
With the team also facing a tough schedule, the World Cup was seen as an important period in the calendar to calm things down a bit, a chance to share without the pressure of results to worry about. It will also support the move to buy players in January.
But, of course, things haven’t gone as well as the Todd Boehly-Clearlake consortium pitches. They made the bold decision to sack popular head coach Thomas Tuchel in September and replace him with the relatively inexperienced Potter.
Unease among fans is growing. Only bottom club Wolves (one) have scored fewer points in their last five games than Potter’s side (two), who were knocked out of the Carabao Cup at the third-round stage for the first time in 12 years.
If they played Bournemouth this Saturday rather than December 27, you can imagine what the atmosphere would be like at Stamford Bridge. The tension in the air will definitely be clear compared to what is coming next month. Removed a bit.
Behdad Eghbali and Boehly attend games regularly. After riding an initial wave of popularity that saw the Premier League spend a record £250 million-plus ($295m) on players, how will fans in the crowd start to make their feelings known, as they did when Maurizio Sarri was in charge?
It doesn’t seem to have much effect. There were many reasons for Tuchel’s departure, but there is a significant difference here. Potter is their choice, their man and has been given a five-year contract, a statement from the outset that this is a long-term process.
On the eve of the Newcastle fixture, Potter admitted he was looking forward to a period without games to play and would use the opportunity to speak to the owners in more depth.
“I ended up here pretty early and in terms of games and turnovers you’re in the washing machine,” he said. “You have to deal with everything that’s going on and the amount of matches you’re playing.
“You need time to reflect and because of the World Cup break (there is). I would be foolish not to, refresh, recover, reflect, improve. I’m sure we’ll (discuss). It is part of an ongoing process as we have regular dialogue. “
Those around the club have spoken of how positive the working relationship between the owners and management team has been. More than one source close to senior players, speaking on condition of anonymity to protect their jobs, has recently said “how much they loved Potter.” It should be pointed out that this is before the recent drop in results, which began exactly two weeks ago with the 4-1 defeat at Brighton, but which marries with what was revealed above.
There are extenuating circumstances, as Potter was keen to point out after the Newcastle defeat, with injuries and fatigue taking their toll. N’Golo Kante, Reece James, Wesley Fofana, Ben Chilwell, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Carney Chukwuemeka and now likely Ruben Loftus-Cheek will all factor into the absence, limping off in the seventh minute at Newcastle.
This is also a squad he inherited and began to decline under Tuchel. But this is Chelsea, where expectations are high and excuses are not accepted.
Some may wonder if the owners are ready to reset their ambitions. On arrival, their minimum target was to finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League. As in the Roman Abramovich era, competition is important for the club’s finances and ability to attract players.
Nothing changed when Tuchel left and Potter arrived. Here we are two months later and Chelsea remain on target, eight points behind Tottenham in fourth place. There are 24 games to climb back up the table. But not only this one, Potter has been hired for future seasons.
The owners wanted to make a run at the Champions League, and in this regard, Potter led the team to the last 16 after picking up just one point from their opening two group games. They next face Borussia Dortmund over the two legs and hope they can go on.
The federation felt that Potter was more ready to give a chance to youngsters and home-grown talent. Against Newcastle, Chelsea had six academy graduates in the starting XI, the most since a game against Leeds in 1998. Notably, 18-year-old Lewis Hall was selected at left-back. That’s a good stat, but scoring three points regularly.
Chelsea will travel to Abu Dhabi next month for a training camp, which will feature non-World Cup players as well as those who were dropped earlier in the competition. Even without the full squad available, it will give Potter the ability to work on things and get something akin to a preseason.
Big ties can arise. But it will take a long time to convince a skeptical Chelsea fan.
(Top photo: George Wood/Getty Images)