A week is a long time in football and while Chelsea have a new head coach in the form of Graham Potter, it does not feel too long ago that Thomas Tuchel was lamenting the state of his squad during the club’s pre-season tour of the USA.
A comprehensive defeat to Arsenal had left it clear where the Blues were in their preparations, and conditions on tour, the pace of transfers and the quality of performance had left Tuchel clearly frustrated.
“Listen, it’s the same players, so why should anything change?” he said, “We will see hopefully development but at the moment, we have the same issues because we have the same players.
“Also, a level of mental commitment that we lacked because we have a lot of players who are thinking about leaving and looking at their options. We have players that have left and I think at the moment that’s obvious.”
While business may not have moved as quickly as many would have liked, by the end of the transfer window there had been a lot of turnover at Stamford Bridge.
Raheem Sterling, Kalidou Koulibaly, Carney Chukwuemeka, Marc Cucurella, Wesley Fofana, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Denis Zakaria arrived at Cobham, while the likes of Timo Werner, Ross Barkley, Michy Batshuayi, Emerson Palmieri, Marcos Alonso, Billy Gilmour and more departed the club.
Two figures who were interested in moves away from the club were Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech. Under Tuchel in 2022/23, each started just one game and saw some sparing contributions from the bench.
The end of the transfer window means the duo are committed to the club until January and after the World Cup this winter. In a sense their season started again. Perhaps not in the minds of supporters, however, who were not too kind in their reception at Stamford Bridge.
Their struggles this term were perhaps summed up in Tuchel’s final match in defeat to Dinamo Zagreb. Pulisic lacked impact while Ziyech proved wasteful in his contributions. In Potter’s first game in charge, they were once again confined to their bench before being allowed a short cameo at the end of the game. Pulisic received six minutes, and Ziyech eight.
While a tangible output was missing, in his short time on the pitch Ziyech had more shots on target than any of his teammates but could not capitalise, while his passing percentage was as low as 57%. The Moroccan can have an impact, but he must take any opportunity to be successful and be encouraged to do so.
Regardless, Potter has the benefit of offering every player a new start, and for Pulisic anad Ziyech, who have a World Cup to prepare for, they must take it, regardless of where they currently sit in the 47-year-old’s plans. October’s schedule will test the squad’s limits and both the form and morale of each player will be crucial to get through.
However, Potter must ensure there is a good relationship with his squad, because as autumn progresses players may be thinking about leaving once again. Not necessarily to new clubs, but to their international teams for the biggest tournament of their lives.
The Blues cannot afford to have players not putting in their all in the hopes of avoiding injury or keeping their fitness for the World Cup, so each squad member must feel invested and involved.