Tuesday, July 23, 2024

5 Facts From Graham Potter’s First Chelsea Game

The start of Graham Potter’s tenure didn’t exactly go to plan on Wednesday as Chelsea were held to a 1-1 draw with Red Bull Salzburg, leaving them bottom of their Champions League group after two games.

There were some welcome changes from the new boss, but also some familiar concerns, highlighting just how much work Potter has to do to turn Chelsea into European and domestic contenders once again.

Here’s what we learned from Potter’s debut.

1. Raheem Sterling is in for an interesting season

Raheem Sterling
Sterling had a new role to play / Mike Hewitt/GettyImages
Few players have seen their role shift more drastically than Raheem Sterling, who was an attacking midfielder under Thomas Tuchel but played as a funky wing-back hybrid against Salzburg.

Instructed to stay as wide as possible – often isolating himself from play – it initially looked as though the summer signing might be wasted in such a position, but Potter’s logic was soon evident as Sterling started finding himself in the box with alarming regularity.

The extra space afforded to him meant Sterling had plenty of opportunities to get into Salzburg’s box, and his goal was one of real quality. Once he gets this role down, he could be in for a fun year.

2. The tempo has stepped up

Mason Mount, Nicolas Seiwald
Mount flashed some nice moves / Craig Mercer/MB Media/GettyImages
Chelsea fans were on their feet in the opening few minutes in response to what was clearly a faster tempo from the Blues.

Passes were quicker and players were clearly being encouraged to run at their defenders, with one fleet-footed moment from Mason Mount in particular drawing praise from the Stamford Bridge faithful.

High speed is clearly something Potter is looking for, and it made for some fun watching.

3. But issues at both ends of the pitch remain

Cesar Azpilicueta
Chelsea’s defence came up short again / James Williamson – AMA/GettyImages
The formation and style of play was different, but the results were largely the same. Chelsea were wasteful in attack and sloppy in defence.

Perhaps it’s just a case of getting used to the new system, but it’s clear that Potter has more than just tactical work to do to bring the best out of his new side at both ends of the field.

Sloppy mistakes and a reluctance to take risks were common under Tuchel and are threatening to remain in the Potter era.

4. Armando Broja has a big role to play

Armando Broja
Broja nearly fired in a winner / Mike Hewitt/GettyImages
Kai Havertz looked decent, if uninspiring, against Salzburg, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang continued to struggle in front of goal.

In just over 20 minutes off the bench, Armando Broja eclipsed both players’ impact on the game. He nearly set up a winner for Hakim Ziyech before skying a good chance to be the hero himself.

The young striker has inked a new contract to stick around for the long-term, but he might not have to wait that long if he keeps outperforming his team-mates.

5. Fringe players have a lot of work to do

Hakim Ziyech, Philipp Kohn
Ziyech fluffed a number of chances / James Williamson – AMA/GettyImages
While Broja almost seized his chance off the bench, the same cannot be said for a handful of other fringe players.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek was quiet but bigger concerns have to be drawn over Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic who, like they did under Tuchel, failed to have any positive impact on the game when introduced.

The duo’s confidence obviously isn’t going to return overnight, but it’s clear that they need more than just a change in manager.

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