Champions League / Before Chelsea-Salzburg: Graham Potter, the gentle revolution

“I guess it’s better that we talk about this rather than me being under pressure, having my position threatened, or that sort of thing.” It was with a smirk that Graham Potter commented, in an interview with Football Daily, on a subject that did not go into preview across the Channel: his “glow up”, in other words the positive evolution of his look . Once clean-shaven and dressed in a tracksuit in the colors of his club, the 47-year-old coach now shows up on match days with a finely trimmed beard and a simple and elegant turtleneck. The new Chelsea coach has therefore gradually changed in appearance. He also changed his team, and it is probably much less futile.

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The England manager was inducted just hours after Thomas Tuchel was sacked. It must be said that the 2021 Champions League winner had been on a tightrope for some time, the fault of disappointing results and differences of opinion with the club’s new owner, American Todd Boehly. The pitiful setback conceded at Dinamo Zagreb (1-0), at the start of the C1 group stage, was therefore too much for the German. Since his successor took over, the Blues have not lost.

All competitions combined, the partners of Kai Havertz remain in effect on a series of eight matches without defeat (five wins, three draws). After a chaotic start, they replaced each other in the Premier League (fifth, with one game less) and took the lead in their Champions League group thanks to two convincing successes against AC Milan (3-0 in London, 0-2 at San Siro). A victory in Salzburg on Tuesday (6:45 p.m.) would open the doors to the round of 16 even before the last day. But how to explain such a recovery?

Graham Potter (Chelsea)

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Solidity regained, Kepa revived

Potter took office on September 8, the day Queen Elizabeth II died. This event produced Chelsea’s two-game report, giving them time and opportunity to chat with each of their players, one-on-one, to take the temperature of the dressing room and lay out their philosophy. Until then accustomed to leading smaller cars (Swansea, Brighton), the manager from the Midlands was expected at the turn on his ability to make the most of a staff studded with stars. To achieve this, he first insisted on the essential, namely defensive solidity.

Under his orders, the London rearguard became impervious again (3 goals conceded and 5 clean sheets in 8 matches), which had precisely been its strength during the conquest of the continental title in 2021. clung to his defense with three axial. Potter, on the other hand, is more flexible, changing patterns depending on the forces present and the opponent. He also made a strong decision by relaunching Kepa Arrizabalaga. The most expensive goalkeeper in the world (80 million euros, in 2018) was barred by Édouard Mendy. In recent weeks, he has multiplied the high-flying benefits and is not for nothing in the recovery of the Blues.

Kepa Arrizabalaga on fire for a few games with Chelsea

Credit: Getty Images

At this time of the season, the calendar is unforgiving

The former coach of the Seagulls does not hesitate, either, to quickly review his plans if he realizes that he is on the wrong track. On Saturday, against Manchester United, he replaced Marc Cucurella with Mateo Kovacic from the 36th minute of play, in order to densify the midfield. “We were slightly outplayed in midfield, we needed an extra player to put a bit more pressure on them, to stop them building up their attack”justified the one who, as a player, played as a defender.

Supposed choice and pragmatism, these are the two pillars on which Potter relied to lead his little revolution at Chelsea. A velvet revolution, which is bearing fruit for the moment, even if recent results – two draws, at Brentford (0-0) and against Manchester United (1-1) – warn of any excess of optimism. The sequence of meetings until the World Cup will be a real test for the new strongman of Londoners and his troops. “At this time of the season, the calendar is ruthless”, recognized the person concerned, who admitted to being scrutinized very closely. And not just because of her looks.

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