The football world was shocked on Wednesday when Chelsea sacked Thomas Tuchel as head coach. Just 16 months ago he was lifting the Champions League trophy for the Blues, but a poor start to the season saw him sacked.
Last season was not the best season for Chelsea, as after a very promising start, their Premier League title challenge slowly faded. However, they have won the Super Cup and Club World Cup and while not the most prestigious trophy in the sport, they have earned their place to challenge their amazing Champions league win last season. It also cannot be ignored that they had a great run in the domestic cups losing both to Liverpool on penalties, after 0-0 draws.
Despite being out of the Premier League title race a few hours before May, finishing 3rd and securing a place in the Champions League for this season is no easy task in the Premier League. Last season, Chelsea were also challenged by the club having to sell out and not allowing fans into the stadium for a large part of the season. All of this lead to the sacking of Tuchel who felt harsh from the new Chelsea owner, Todd Boehly, and especially after spending so much money in the summer to get the players that Tuchel wanted, is very surprising.
However, Chelsea replaced Tuchel, very quickly, with Graham Potter who had done a wonderful job at Brighton and certainly got this big move. Now the big question: will he succeed?
Brighton have performed very well since Potter was appointed manager in 2019 and the stats fans out there have been saying that Potter has been a good manager for a few seasons now. Brighton are consistently high in ‘Expected’ data, including expected goals (xG), expected goals against (xGA) and expected points (xPTS). These statistics always indicate that Brighton play very good football but as they usually do not perform in this data, it is very likely that the players have not yet reached an elite level of football ability, be it is in their shooting or defensive actions. or probably both.
His choice of formation varies from opponent to opponent with 3-5-2 and 3-4-1-2 being particularly common options. Players sometimes play in positions that they would not initially choose, but the system works well. Take Leandro Trossard at the start of this season playing as a left wing-back instead of his preferred front line role. He has been excellent at the start of this season working up and down the line doing his defensive duties and is also very dangerous in attack contributing 2 goals and 1 assist already. Where Potter felt the need, he switched to a formation with 4 defenders, which had little negative effect on the overall style of play from the team.
The very promising aspect of his time at Brighton was how well the team performed against the so-called “big 6” clubs. Brighton will give anyone a challenging game but where they stand out the most is against the “better” teams. They got points against Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United last season and finished the season in 9th position. For a team that spends little and has little squad depth, credit has to go to Potter for getting this group of players to play such a difficult style of football.
At Chelsea, expect Potter to have his team play a positive, complex and possession-based style of football. The defense will be very compact with few chances given to the other team, given the quality of Chelsea’s defenders already. However, it will take some time to be fully implemented. It has been rumored that Potter will not be sacked from Chelsea even if he fails to reach the top four this season, which is a good sign from the owners that they see him as a long-term replacement.
Patience will be required for him to implement his intricate style and the rewards may not be seen until next season or longer. The signings will be very important as he demands a huge range of players. It would not be surprising if he targets some of Brighton’s most talented players, such as Trossard and Moisés Caicedo, as he is already familiar with them. Therefore, it seems a risk to take over Tuchel who is a proven world-class manager, however if the goal is a long-term project, Potter, given time, could be a brilliant choice.