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Monday, January 30, 2023

Potter still sounds like a mid-table manager and at Chelsea that’s unacceptable

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THE problem with Graham Potter is that he still sounds like he’s the Brighton manager. After Chelsea were trounced at Manchester City in the FA Cup on Sunday, the Blues boss listed the teams his injury-ravaged side had been beaten by during their miserable run of three wins in 12 matches. 6Graham Potter has had a shaky start as Chelsea managerCredit: Getty He noted that Chelsea had lost four Premier League games — 1-0 to Newcastle, Arsenal and Manchester City and 4-1 “on a bad day at Brighton”. And had Potter still been manager of a mid-table club with mid-table aspirations, that would all have sounded perfectly acceptable. But not at Chelsea. Not even with ten players out injured. And certainly after their “painful” first-half no-show against a below-strength City. At an elite club, you cannot shrug shoulders at any defeat. There is a constant expectation to win. That’s why you get the big bucks. A manager’s mindset, the way he works, what he says to his players and in public, must alter drastically. But Potter sounds like a mid-table manager in public and as a result he is losing the faith of many supporters. If he sounds like a mid-table manager in the dressing room and on the training field then he will lose the belief of many players. Now, this column advocated Potter for a major job just days before Chelsea owner Todd Boehly poached him from Brighton. Most read in Football BETTING SPECIAL – BEST FOOTBALL BETTING SITES IN THE UK It was an enlightened move, a refreshing one for an English coaching community lacking in opportunity, and it suggested Boehly was going to be a very different owner to Roman Abramovich. Most neutrals will hope Boehly stays loyal to Potter — but, frankly, it doesn’t matter a stuff what neutrals think. Chelsea’s supporters — who gorged on glory for two decades under Vladimir Putin’s chum — have already turned on Potter and, at the Etihad, it felt as if several players were unconvinced as well. Potter is far from the only manager to suffer severe difficulties when taking such a step up. 6Potter applauds the Chelsea fans following Sunday’s mauling at Manchester City but the Blues’ supporters are fast losing faith in their bossCredit: AFP When David Moyes moved from Everton to Manchester United and when Roy Hodgson switched from Fulham to Liverpool, two outstanding managers of “lesser” Premier League clubs swiftly looked and sounded out of their depth. United players complained that Moyes was too concerned with opposition players — as he would have been at Everton — rather than concentrating on their own strengths. The fact that Moyes took with him his entire Goodison Park backroom team — as Potter took his staff from Brighton to Chelsea — made senior players feel as if they, the dominant force in the English game, were “turning into Everton”. At Liverpool, Hodgson had a habit of talking up results and performances which would have been accepted at Fulham but not at Anfield. Potter is far from the only manager to suffer severe difficulties when taking such a step up. These were tough gigs — Moyes with the near-impossible task of succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson, and Hodgson arriving at Liverpool while co-owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett were staging a civil war. Similarly, Potter is taking charge at a club reeling from the abrupt end of the Abramovich era. There is an excellent argument to keep faith with Potter, to write off this season and accept a lack of Champions League football next. The obvious example is Mikel Arteta. His Arsenal side were 15th at Christmas just two seasons ago, yet the Gunners hierarchy held firm and the Spaniard has now led them to the Premier League summit. Potter, a gifted coach with an excellent track record at lesser clubs, might well be capable of the same. Yet Arteta was a former Arsenal captain who knew the club. And the absence of match-going fans through the pandemic avoided the sort of scenes Potter endured on Sunday when Chelsea supporters sang for his predecessor, Thomas Tuchel, and booed off their team. 6 It is not easy for a manager, his players nor an owner to ignore terrace opposition for long. On Thursday, Chelsea visit their in-form neighbours Fulham, who have beaten them just once in their last FORTY meetings. The only Blues boss to lose at Craven Cottage since the 70s was Jose Mourinho. On that occasion, in 2006, Mourinho dragged off two players inside 25 minutes, raged against refereeing injustice and publicly monstered his team. The likeably modest Potter wouldn’t react like that. But, then again, likeable modesty was never in the Chelsea job spec. ERIK WOUT FOR GLORY IF Manchester United had been seriously considering signing Wout Weghorst — the Dutch targetman relegated with Burnley last season — at pretty much any other time in the last decade, the idea would have been shouted down. It is testimony to the job Erik ten Hag is doing that many are seeing Weghorst as a potentially canny signing. 6Wout Weghorst is a potentially canny signing for Manchester UnitedCredit: Getty Weghorst is no celebrity. He won’t sell much merchandise or have an army of Instagram followers. But under Ten Hag, Manchester United feel like a football club, not a commercial club, once more. JUR NOT ON JURGEN KLOPP dislikes FA Cup replays so much, the last time Liverpool were involved in one against Shrewsbury in 2020, he sent Under-23s boss Neil Critchley to take charge of the match. Now that refereeing blunders have gifted his team a second stab at Wolves in a replay at Molineux next week, the question is whether Klopp — who earns £15million a year — will even bother to turn up for work this time. ED IN THE GAME NEWCASTLE have waited more than half a century for a trophy, so their fans would love to win the FA Cup more keenly than those of any other major English club. However, since the Geordie Arabia revolution their two ties in the competition have resulted in humiliating defeats by League One sides Cambridge and Sheffield Wednesday. Toon boss Eddie Howe is currently bulletproof — but fail to beat Leicester at home in tonight’s Carabao Cup quarter-final and his decision to field a significantly weakened team at Hillsborough will look like a major miscalculation. TRENT ON TO A LEWSER WATCHING Manchester City’s England Under-19 right-back Rico Lewis star in his side’s Premier League win at Chelsea last week, something became apparent. Pretty soon, Trent Alexander-Arnold won’t even be Gareth Southgate’s fourth-choice right-back, he’ll be fifth. 6Premier League ref Paul Tierney has shaved his head – like the game’s top whistlersCredit: Rex TIERNEY’S BALD AMBITION PIERLUIGI COLLINA, a former World Cup final referee and current Fifa refs’ boss, is as bald as a coot. Howard Webb, former World Cup final referee and new Premier League refs’ boss, is as bald as a coot. This year’s excellent World Cup final referee Szymon Marciniak, is as bald as a coot. And apparently it has not gone unnoticed in refereeing circles that ambitious top-flight ref Paul Tierney has had all his hair shaved off . . .  GOOD EVANS, EMI THE best revelation of FA Cup weekend was that Aston Villa’s World Cup-winning keeper Emi Martinez once played for Stevenage’s larger-than-life boss Steve Evans on loan at Rotherham — and that the two have remained in touch. There we were wondering who could possibly have inspired the Argie star to pretend Fifa’s Golden Glove trophy was his willy in that World Cup presentation . . . 6Emiliano Martinez celebrating with his World Cup Golden Glove awardCredit: PA SEND THEM TO COVENTRY DON’T you just love the romance of the Cup — especially when a non-league team defeats a former winner of the competition? Such as filthy-rich Hollywood-owned Wrexham dumping out a destitute Coventry City frequently threatened by homelessness . . .  HARRY SWINGS LOW IT turns out Prince Harry has done coke, weed, magic mushrooms, fought with his brother, dressed up as a Nazi, boasted about shooting people and been spanked in a field by a horsey older woman. So what? We already knew Harry was a rugby union fan.He just sounds like every other posh rugger   bugger you’ve ever met in the pub.

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