Graham Potter's new-look Chelsea will be dynamic and full of energy but it's bad news for several key players | The Sun
IT'S good to see the new Chelsea ownership are at least keeping some tradition at the club – the manager only ever being two bad results away from the sack.
A 1-0 defeat away to Dinamo Zagreb on the opening matchday of the Champions League group stage signalled the end of the line for Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea.
Next coach Graham Potter has to come into an environment where Chelsea are already five points off the pace in the Premier League and off to a losing start in the Champions League.
Add to that the fact that there will be no possibility of adding players to change the dynamic of the squad.
Potter is an incredibly modern coach and it certainly feels as though his work at Brighton has earned him the right to a chance at a top-six club but what would Chelsea be getting in the Englishman?
He is flexible in his approach from a tactical perspective but how exactly would this fit with this Chelsea squad?
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Progressive passing out from the back
For all that Chelsea were relatively possession based under Thomas Tuchel, you would not have said that any of their central defenders were particularly progressive in their approach.
They did not typically have an approach that saw their central defenders taking responsibility for moving the ball through the thirds.
Instead, the Italian international midfielder Jorginho tended to take the role as the main ball progressor for Chelsea.
Under Graham Potter, however, this would likely change. Potter is very flexible from a tactical perspective although he does tend to prefer to play with a back three system as opposed to a back four.
We believe that this would be the case at Chelsea where he would have the players needed to make this system a success already at the club.
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At Brighton the central defenders play an important role when it comes to building the attack with the likes of Adam Webster and, when he was still at the club, Ben White playing progressively with the ability to step out towards the midfield areas in possession of the ball and find ways to break a line with passes into advanced areas.
This summer saw Chelsea invest £34m in the signing of the Senegalese international central defender Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli.
He is the type of central defender who would thrive under Potter’s management with his willingness to be aggressive in possession and move the ball forward and through the thirds.
Indeed, while he was at Napoli he took the responsibility on a regular basis to move the ball forward and through lines.
With Thiago Silva less inclined to pass aggressively and new signing Wesley Fofana more comfortable in the defensive phase of the game, it is entirely likely that we would see Koulibaly take on an important role in the build-up.
One of the biggest criticisms of Tuchel at the start of this season was the way that the English international right-back Reece James was being used.
James, when at his best, is a real force down the right-hand side with a blend of technical skill and physicality that not many players can match.
At times this season, however, he has been used as a right-sided central defender in a role that does not necessarily meet his strengths.
At Brighton one of the most striking aspects of Graham Potter’s time has been his ability to get the most out of wingbacks.
Brighton’s most recent game, the 5-2 demolition of Leicester City, is a case in point as they played with Solly March as the right wingback and Leandro Trossard as the left wingback.
Neither of these players are natural wingbacks but Potter trusts himself to be able to work on the training ground to teach players how to play in these areas in his system.
At Chelsea, he would immediately come into a situation where he would have two players ideally suited to his style of play with the ability to play as wingbacks in Reece James and Marc Cucurella, the Spanish international who has recently been signed by Chelsea from Brighton.
James is a wingback who can control the entire right side of the pitch on his own and this creates the opportunity for the midfielders within the system to stay centrally and to look for opportunities to overload the centre of the pitch.
On the opposite side, Potter will be able to choose between Cucurella, who he already knows inside and out, and the England international Ben Chilwell.
The smart money would be on Potter turning to Cucurella, a player who played several different positions under Potter as the English coach changed the system seamlessly within matches, as his first choice.
Crucially the role of the wingbacks under Potter are designed to control entire sides of the pitch both in the attacking and defensive phases of the game.
This means that Potter can concentrate his resources in the central areas of the pitch.
Energy is king in the midfield
With the main ball progression coming from the wide central defenders and the wingbacks controlling the wide areas we then see Brighton’s central midfielders play in a dynamic all-purpose role.
Indeed, this season you could easily make the argument that the midfield unit at Brighton has been the key to their strong performances in the Premier League with Moises Caicedo, Enock Mwepu and Alexis Mac Allister all performing exceptionally well.
The key for the Brighton midfield and the way that Potter likes to play in these areas is that all players are capable of performing in all phases of the game.
They do not have midfield players that we would typically classify as only attacking or defensive midfielders and instead they rotate and cover ground across the central areas.
For us, this is the biggest challenge that Potter would face when taking over this Chelsea squad.
Other than N’Golo Kante, who has significant injury issues, there are no midfielders at Chelsea who fit the profile of the Brighton midfield.
Jorginho is too static and Mateo Kovacic flatters to deceive. How would the Chelsea midfield look under Potter and how would it function?
Would the Englishman be able to pull off his preferred style of play with a midfield that does not function the way that he would want it to?
If Potter is not able to create a midfield structure with the players that Chelsea already have at the club then we may see Chelsea struggle to perform effectively going forward.
While at Brighton we see Potter typically look for his strikers to play high and tight against the opposition defender it is the role of the midfielders to then work up and down the centre and the channels of the pitch in order to fully connect all parts of the team.
What does all this mean?
If Potter does decide that the temptation of Chelsea is too big to turn down, fans of the Blues can be quite excited.
Expect plenty of clever build-up from the back, the wingbacks being fully utilised and lots of energy needed in the middle of the park.
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