Graham Potter – Chelsea’s new man for their new dawn

Author: Raphael Adelugba

When Todd Boehly came into the job 103 days ago (at the time of writing), I doubt many would have expected some of the significant changes the American co-owner/interim sporting director would have made. Petr Čech, Marina Granovskaia, and Bruce Buck were the initial sacrificial lambs for the new era at Stamford Bridge. They all left early on to the new owners’ reign — this left Thomas Tuchel as the figurehead of the new project alongside Boehly.

The German manager worked alongside Boehly in the transfer market at the start of the window. The two conducted most of the business Chelsea did with the approval of each other — Marc Cucurella, Wesley Fofana, Raheem Sterling, and Kalidou Koulibaly all being signings that the two aspired together to complete. The constant public pursuit of wantaway Manchester United’s ace Cristiano Ronaldo from Boehly was evident of communication not being as clear. 

Tuchel clarified that he didn’t want to entertain any move for the Portuguese forward. The same could be said for the arrival of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Barcelona, with Tuchel making his affection for the former Arsenal striker very clear throughout the latter stages of the window. 

An eye-opener for Boehly was that Tuchel wasn’t the man he believed could lead the long-term project needed in West London; mixed with inconsistent results, underwhelming performances and the lack of development of underperforming talents, Thomas Tuchel was sacked. 

Boehly’s straightforward approach to a new manager required an individual who could progress the current crop of young and experienced players. Whilst also striking an emotional connection with all parts of the club and bringing in an innovative coach, Chelsea is more adaptable on and off the pitch. So in comes Graham Potter – the man most Premier League fans believe is destined for the top and has the opportunity to prove it at an elite club in the domestic league and globally.

So we’re going to delve into these factors and look into what Graham Potter can bring to Chelsea that Thomas Tuchel couldn’t.

Tactical adaption and System flexibility

Adapting to different scenarios and situations is the key to where Graham Potter is today. His journey as a coach has not been one of the norms. Starting as the technical director of the Ghanaian women’s national team and eventually beginning his managerial career in the deep urban area of the Swedish city of Östersund, he was able to hone his basic skills in the encouraging environment of Scandinavian football. He even displayed his initial promise to the English shores when beating Arsenal in the UEFA Europa League knockout stages. At Swansea, he was able to instil a style of football that was renowned within the club with the likes of Brendan Rodgers, and Potter was able to carry on those traditions and enhance them — establishing the Welsh club as one of the most possession-heavy teams in the country. Once again, Potter took on one of the country’s best teams at the time in Manchester City and went toe-to-toe with them at times, with the City side needing a last-minute goal to secure a narrow 3-2 win.

Pep Guardiola liked what he saw and hailed Potter as “one of the best young coaches in the game with a big future”, and his words were listened to by many. Brighton & Hove Albion were ready to hand Potter the chance to show his talents at the top tier in the English game as he replaced the ever-pragmatic Chris Hughton.

Potter’s time at Brighton is well-known; he was one of the most talented coaches in the country and one of the most adaptable in European football. Another aspect hailed during his time on the South coast was his flexibility within games — the ability to start a match with one system and end it with another with no drop in performance.

Graham Potter’s Brighton was one of the most tactically fluid sides in the Premier League. They excelled and operated in several different formations, most notably a 3-4-2-1/3-5-2 formation dependent on personnel. The formation allows Brighton to defend with a 5-4-1 or 5-2-3 structure, with wing-backs highly important to their attacking play due to their attacking shape of 3-2-5, which is quite similar to Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea side.

Tuchel faced criticism for his lack of flexibility within matches and his often stubbornness in wanting to adapt to his opponent’s system and usually sticking with his strengths. Despite the evident weaknesses being able to be exploited, something that Potter has proven throughout his career that he excels at—simply noticing his opponents’ weaknesses and exploiting them while using his players’ strengths without many casualties.  

The incomings at Chelsea show a significant overhaul in the youth side made by the new ownership with major aspirations of being one of the most successful and youngest sides in Europe. The likes of Carney Chukwuemeka, Gabriel Slonina, Omari Hutchinson, and Cesare Casadei have all been bought in with valuing the long-term success of these “assets” and the club over placing importance on contributing straight away, something that Boehly has stressed. 

Tuchel hasn’t always been a manager who valued immediate success over a project. Still, his time at the club has emphasised a manager with limited time and using that time to maximise the club’s success. He wants to be one of the if not main aims of this project; developing the young talents with a view of them making good on their potential in the future. 

At Dortmund, Tuchel was the man behind the developments of Ousmane Dembélé and Christian Pulisic — seen as two of the brightest young talents in Europe. Tuchel’s journey from his time at Dortmund meant that the German focused on success rather than development, which is represented in his time at Chelsea, despite the improvements of Mason Mount and Reece James. At the same time, Potter has been praised for developing players in his career. He has prioritised player development over success at times, as he views success as the result of his players and team. An aspect of Potter’s character that Boehly will admire in his capture of the Englishman.

As seen with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boehly wants stability and long-term stability in his projects, with the main parts being at the forefront of that project. Dave Roberts has been at the LA side for seven seasons, developing a set of players and breeding them into the principles that resonated around the club.

Graham Potter and emotional intelligence and connection

Graham Potter is not all about numbers and systems, though. He emphasises how emotional intelligence and, most importantly, emotional connection can get the finest out of a squad.

“As much as you need to know about football, you need to know about people as well; that can be the difference. How you can communicate as a team and how you can understand each other big things in football, and it’s not just about the Xs and Os, the numbers, formations, drills, and practices; it’s about how you can get that team to function together, motivate individuals in the group to understand their role and others, and come together for a common cause.” Potter explained to the Coaches Voice. 

Chelsea has been a club that has been described as “emotionless” on and off the pitch. At times, Tuchel could do that, especially during the takeover and how he was able to represent the club and often protect the club from media scrutiny — something the fans admire. But his demeanour would often perceive him as “cold-hearted” and “emotionless”, despite Tuchel himself would probably disagree, even with his off-field issues.

Potter is a man who values the emotional side of the game as much as he does with the actual footballing side — this allows him to understand and acknowledge situations that will bring the fans and club together as one and finally be the man at Stamford Bridge to do so.


Tuchel’s sacking still leaves a sour taste in many people’s mouths, especially considering his achievements in a short time. Still, Tuchel and the ownership had different ideas at the end and a new coach for their new dawn.

Potter is the man tasked with the responsibility. He has a trajectory to be one of the best young coaches in the game, but he needs to prove it. At such a trigger-happy club, whether he will be given the time to prove that or not, time will tell, but if he’s shown that patience, there’s no doubt that Chelsea is getting a manager with immense talent that could steer the club in the right direction for their long term ambitions.


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