Analysis of Kirill Belsky and Vadim Lukomsky.
Until March, Chelsea’s results were terrible: the Londoners won once in 2023, scored disastrously, not all newcomers fit into the squad.
But with the onset of spring, Chelsea’s results are irreproachable: three wins in three matches. Was Potter able to rectify the situation?
The start of 2023 is a disaster for Chelsea. Potter beat anti-records
In January, Chelsea won only one victory: 1-0 against Crystal Palace. The first round for the club in the FA Cup ended with a clearance from Manchester City – 0:4.
In February, it got even worse: there were no victories at all, in five matches in all competitions Chelsea scored once – a goal against West Ham was scored by João Felix.
After a 2-0 loss to Tottenham Hotspur at the end of February, Potter was the worst manager in Chelsea history in terms of win percentage in the Premier League – just 27.8.
If throughout January, insiders from Fabrizio Romano to Ben Jacobs from CBS Sports repeated that the Chelsea management would not fire Potter and expected to build a project around the coach, then at the end of February materials with a different rhetoric appeared.
Matt Lowe of The Telegraph (one of Chelsea’s top insiders) reported the day after the match against Tottenham that despite Todd Bowley’s confidence, there was a split in management over whether to finish the season with Potter. According to Lowe, the next two matches (against Leeds and Borussia in the Champions League) could be decisive for Potter.
Right before the game with Leeds, the journalist honestly admitted that he was not sure that Graham would be allowed to prepare the team for the game against Dortmund in the event of a defeat in the championship.
What went wrong: Lots of rookies and injuries, little time between matches and an atmosphere of hopelessness
The main problem is that Potter’s appointment came during the season. He got the players that were acquired under Thomas Tuchel and had to quickly implement his ideas. The schedule of matches did not contribute to this. Potter’s first match was against Salzburg on 14 September. This was followed by a two-week break for national teams. Then Chelsea played 13 matches in 43 days.
The World Cup in the middle of the season didn’t help either. In the early days of Chelsea’s training camp in Abu Dhabi, which began towards the end of the World Cup, the coach had only five healthy first-team players at his disposal: Trevo Chalobah, Marc Cucurella, Jorginho, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Armando Broya. There was practically no real time for staging the game.
The situation with injuries also hit hard: in January, Chelsea had an entire squad at once taken off due to injuries (10 people) and Felix’s disqualification . Back in mid-August, Ngolo Kante was injured. Reece James missed a month and a half to come back for 50 minutes against Bournemouth and run into a relapse. Wesley Fofana was injured again during a friendly match. Ben Chilwell also missed several months, and now he shows how important he is for the team: he scored against Leicester, was one of the best in the matches against Borussia and Leeds.
Chelsea are second only to Liverpool in terms of the total number of matches missed due to injuries (124). How decisive is this factor? Judging by the stalled Chelsea and Liverpool, it is quite important. Okay, Newcastle have missed 122 games in total. But more than a third of them were missed by Alexander Isaac with a hamstring injury (13 matches) and Emil Kraft, who torn his cruciate ligaments (32 matches).
Against the backdrop of an epidemic of injuries, Chelsea stepped up in the transfer market, signing a record number of players for themselves in the winter (8). Yes, not all of them were a base: David Datro Fofana, although he appeared in the main team, now plays for the reserves, Andrej Santos went back to Vasco da Gama for six months (the Brazilian was not issued a work permit in the UK), the same fate awaited Malo Gusteau (Lyon did not want to give up the defender right now).
Some transfers looked reasonable: Chelsea wanted to freshen up the center of the field, so they took (albeit for a lot of money) Enzo Fernandez. This allowed the sale of Jorginho, who had only six months left on his contract. The loan of Joao Felix also looked logical: the Portuguese was looking for a new challenge, and Chelsea urgently needed a creative attacking player. But why was Noni Madueke bought from PSV in the presence of Pulisic, Ziyech and Sterling for this position? Mudrik’s transfer so far also looks more like a desire to harm the neighbors from Arsenal than a balanced purchase with a full understanding of what role the player is coming into.
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