Chelsea’s Annus Horribilis Under Graham Potter

Despite spending over £500 million on new signings since the arrival of Todd Boehly as the club’s new chairman in June, Chelsea have suffered a dismal campaign with the club currently 11th in the table, 12 points away from top four and perilously close to missing out on European football for the first time in seven years. They were eliminated from both domestic cups by Manchester City, but they nevertheless have a chance of redemption as they prepare to take on Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals.


Roman Abramovich’s 19-year spell in charge of Chelsea was characterized by a ruthless approach towards managers that would see a total of 12 permanent managers oversee the Blues during his time in charge. This would see Chelsea maintain the highest standards and finally emerge as one of the most successful clubs in Europe, winning 21 trophies including two Champions League titles, one Europa League title and five Premier League titles — having won just one league title in the 98 years preceding Abramovich’s arrival.


It also led to a consistent revolving door and has meant that the club have been unable to build a long-term project under a manager. It is this ‘project’ that Chelsea looked set to build when they decided to sack Champions League winner Thomas Tuchel in early September and bring in Graham Potter, whose sole managerial triumphs have come in Sweden. Potter had built an impressive project at Brighton that had seen various young talents like Yves Bissouma, Marc Cucurella and Alexis Mac Allister flourish under his tutelage.


Tuchel was sacked on September 7 after the club suffered a shock 1-0 defeat to Dinamo Zagreb to open their Champions League campaign, with Potter taking the reins and leading them to three straight league wins as well as a 1-1 draw to Red Bull Salzburg, followed by four straight wins in the competition to book their ticket to the Round of 16, where they would lose 1-0 at Borussia Dortmund before winning 2-0 at the Bridge to complete the comeback.


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Chelsea closed out October with back-to-back draws to Brentford and Manchester United and a 4-1 defeat to Potter’s former club Brighton, followed by 1-0 losses to Arsenal and Newcastle. They returned from the break with a 2-0 win against Bournemouth, only to open January with a 1-1 draw to Nottingham Forest and back-to-back defeats to City and Fulham, followed by a 1-0 win against Crystal Palace and three straight draws against Liverpool, Fulham and West Ham.


The Blues fell to a 1-0 defeat to Southampton and a 2-0 defeat to Tottenham, scoring just one goal in five games before bouncing back with a strong start to March that would see them beat Dortmund 2-0 as well as beat Leeds 1-0 and Leicester City 3-1. They took the lead on two separate occasions but were unable to put the tie to bed as Everton secured a 2-2 draw in London with Ellis Simms grabbing the second equalizer in the 89th minute.


Chelsea kicked off April with a 2-0 defeat at home to Aston Villa, and while it seemed that Potter would have been given the time to see out this dismal spell and manage them against Real Madrid, this loss to Unai Emery’s side was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Potter was sacked, with interim coach Bruno Saltor taking the reins as he looks to stabilize their form with the Blues set to host Liverpool and play Wolves at Molineux before taking on Real Madrid, Brighton Brentford, and Arsenal, whilst May will see them play Bournemouth, Nottingham Forest, Manchester City and Newcastle.


Boehly may have been keen to avoid Abramovich comparisons and eschew a trigger-happy approach, but in just 10 months, he has already sacked two managers in Tuchel and Potter. Having paid a world-record managerial transfer fee of £17.5 million to sign him from Brighton, Potter leaves Chelsea with a record of 17 wins, 9 draws, and 12 losses.


At a club like Brighton, he may very well have been given the time to see out the storm and steer them back to top form — at a club that spent more money in January than Ligue 1, Serie A, La Liga and Bundesliga combined, those luxuries simply don’t exist. Now, it is vital for Chelsea to rid themselves of this scattergun approach and start finding a genuine identity under their new American owner.


For a club that has a mobile phone network as their shirt sponsor this season, they sure are sending a lot of mixed signals.



By: Victor Akinola / @Only1Victor10

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Darren Walsh / Chelsea FC