Graham Potter has had his first day in the job at Chelsea and already the players will be getting to know their new coach having been led by Thomas Tuchel mere days ago. Potter signed on the dotted line on Thursday and took his first training session on Friday to quickly acquaint himself with a new environment.
With Friday’s press conference unveiling the former Brighton, Swansea and Ostersund boss and the west London derby against Fulham postponed, supporters will have to wait a little longer before they see the 47-year-old in front of the cameras and facing the media in Chelsea colours for the first time.
With that said, football.london has spoken to someone who has insight on Potter and his credentials having watched him up close over the last couple of seasons. Brighton reporter Richard Mills has followed the Seagulls during Potter’s tenure and has plenty of insight or what Chelsea will get from their new head coach.
What is your initial reaction to the move and what will Chelsea be getting with Graham Potter?
“I think the reaction of most Brighton fans is shock, disappointment, and even betrayal. It’s all happened very quickly and while some could have stomached losing Potter, Billy Reid, and Bjorn Hamberg, the exits of Bruno Salter, a Brighton legend, Ben Roberts, and Kyle Macauley are hard to take.
“Potter is a great tactician, a man-manager, and someone who has a great talent for getting the best out of players.”
What is one thing Chelsea fans must know about Potter?
“It’s not exactly one…but he’s an honest, humble, likeable character, who is fairly unassuming, does not like to talk about transfer speculation, tends to not complain about referee decisions, and likes to focus on the controllables. He has a master’s in leadership and emotional intelligence from Leeds Met and a key part of his management is building relationships with players and staff.”
Is he ready for job like Chelsea?
“That is the key question. After two seasons of marginal gains at Brighton, the club’s trajectory sky-rocketed last season. Finishing ninth with 51 points were Premier League records for Albion. They had the fifth-best away record in the division and beat teams like Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester United, West Ham, and arguably outplayed Chelsea in both of their draws last season.
“Despite losing Yves Bissouma and Marc Cucurella, arguably their two best players, Brighton have adapted and are flying this season. They are such a well-coached and drilled side and that was down to Potter.
“His teams have struggled to take their chances and a real goalscorer is what they lacked up front. However, his players have shared the goals and if you can find a top marksman up front that could be the missing piece to really achieve liftoff for Potter.
“He took Ostersunds from the Swedish fourth tier to the top flight in under five years and helped them qualify for the Europa League, achieving wins over Galatasaray and Arsenal. He is not infallible and his teams have been hurt on the transition, but he is a very talented and capable manager. He just needs time but whether Chelsea give him that remains to be seen.”
What style of play and formations should the Blues’ expect?
“Under former Brighton boss Chris Hughton, they had a possession stat of just over 40% and that jumped 10% under Potter. Their passing accuracy went from the low 70s to the low 80s. Like his inspiration, Pep Guardiola, he likes his teams to play out from the back. I know Mendy is not the best in this regard so it may be interesting to see what happens there.
“He tends to operate with three centre-backs and two wing-backs, packs the midfield, and has one striker (or sometimes a false nine) up top.
“Brighton liked to press high up the pitch with man-to-man marking but then were defensively fluid and their formations changed over the match, depending on how the game was going. The formations can be 3-5-2, 3-4-3, 4-3-2-1, and more!”
How has he managed any big personalities/conflicts with the Seagulls?
“While Potter has a friendly demeanour, he is not afraid to make big calls. For example, he dropped established goalkeeper Mat Ryan out of the blue in November 2020 against Tottenham and brought in 22-year-old academy product Robert Sanchez. Ryan’s last game for the club was in mid-December 2020 and he was then shipped out on loan to Arsenal, before leaving the club in the summer of 2021.
“Moreover, Neal Maupay is quite a fiery character but he actually said the Frenchman made him a better coach.
‘From a personal perspective, I can probably count on one hand how many players that have helped me become a better coach, the same as Neal [Maupay]. What he has done for us over the last three years is clear,’ Potter said.
When asked about how that was, he told Sussex Live: ‘I would say in terms of our relationship as two human beings. I have a lot of respect for Neal, he is a determined character, he knows his own mind, he has got his strong beliefs which is good for a coach because they can test your own. You have compromise, you have to respect, you have trust, you have to be honest – all the things that I think are really important for being a coach, you have to be that with Neal.’
Maupay has since left the club but Potter has proven he is no soft touch.
How much success has he had integrating young players?
“Brighton’s academy achieved one of its main targets in the 2020/21 campaign when 30% of Premier League minutes were made by players nurtured in their youth setup.
“Ben White played a season in the Premier League after working his way up the club’s academy and then was sold to Arsenal for £50m. Robert Sanchez went from playing on loan at League One in early 2020 to being called up to play for Spain in just over a year and now he has some of the best keeper stats in the division.
“Aside from academy players, Potter has given Moises Caicedo, 20, Alexis Mac Allister, 23, Tariq Lamptey, 21, Jeremy Sarmiento, 20, and more game time. The former two are arguably the first names on the teamsheet right now.”