The Graham Potter era at Chelsea began with a draw against RB Salzburg on match day two of the Champions League group stage. The game was Potter's first ever experience of Champions League football. Taking that into consideration, a draw against the Austrian Bundesliga leaders was not a shabby result.
Potter switched tactics and was not afraid to tweak Tuchel's three-at-the-back formation. It was a fresh take similar to the one that got Brighton and Hove Albion playing some brilliant football. On another night, Chelsea could have won the game. Below are three issues Potter needs to solve to make progress in the long term.
#1 Chelsea's finishing woes
First and foremost, Graham Potter needs to solve the striker problem that has plagued Chelsea since 2017. When Diego Costa left the club, Chelsea lost an elite striker and have since failed to replace him. In recent seasons, the absence of a prolific goalscorer has cost the team points and Thomas Tuchel his job.
Against RB Salzburg, the players got into great positions thanks to tweaks made by Potter. Raheem Sterling scored a brilliant goal, but they could have easily scored a few more. Armando Broja, Hakim Ziyech, Mason Mount, and Reece James all came close to scoring, but none of them hit the target.
This issue could be more psychological than tactical. The team is creating chances, but the finishing has been poor. They need to stop forcing the issue and get back to the basics. The team played well and on another day would have won three points.
#2 Lapses in concentration
It is highly unlikely to dominate a football match for the whole 90 minutes. Even the best teams concede a chance or two. Defenders losing concentration for a fraction of a second is a common occurrence. Therefore, if a team has finishing problems like Chelsea, such lapses in concentration can prove costly. At the moment, Chelsea are conceding goals because of silly mistakes.
There have been many examples of players making individual errors this season which have led to goals. Against RB Salzburg, the equalizer was a result of indecision. Chelsea players could have easily committed a tactical foul or just cleared the ball, but they allowed the ball to be kept in play. The outcome — one chance and one goal for RB Salzburg.
Whenever Chelsea concede these goals, the players' heads drop. Against RB Salzburg, the team did continue to create chances after conceding and could have won despite the equalizer. That is where the mentality comes in.
#3 A change in mentality
Graham Potter is a good man-manager, and in his initial interviews, he stressed the importance of human values in a player. He has a degree in social science. At Brighton, Potter made players like Pascal Gross overachieve, so theoretically, the players at Chelsea should do even better. Potter created a culture of responsibility and accountability at Brighton, and he needs to do the same at Chelsea.
At the moment, too many players are underperforming. As a whole, they did play better against RB Salzburg, but now it is about building that chemistry. It was something that Thomas Tuchel managed in his first six months, and it resulted in a Champions League trophy. Potter's solution needs to be long-term, one that goes beyond the usual 18-month expiry date.
Chelsea's next game is against Crystal Palace on Oct. 1. They will be playing nine games in October, therefore, the whole squad will be utilized. Potter and the players need to cultivate that winning mentality again.
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