Thursday, March 30, 2023

Pressure Reaches Boiling Point for Potter

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Bernard Ford
A Leicester City fan. Wants respect from the 'London based' media for clubs outside the bubble.

The managerial sack race is never far from the latest football news headlines, with the latest odds being a hot topic of conversation with those assessing the newest betting sites.

A race which nobody wants to win, but the man currently out on his own in front – and seemingly hurtling towards the finish line – is Chelsea’s Graham Potter. So, what has gone wrong for the man so successful at Brighton and Hove Albion? And who are the men touted to step into his shoes should the axe finally fall?

Why is Potter Under Pressure?

As is most often the case in such a results-driven business, the overwhelming factor behind Potter’s current predicament is the performance of his side on the pitch. Having stuttered for much of the current season, Saturday 18th February marked a new low for his tenure, as Chelsea fell to a 1-0 defeat to rock-bottom club Southampton – at Stamford Bridge!

Whilst all new managers tend to be afforded a degree of leeway, the murmurings of discontent were audible at the final whistle, with sections of the support clearly unimpressed with the current plight of the Blues.

That disappointment is perfectly understandable, as this defeat was only the latest instalment in a series of underwhelming results. Since taking charge, Potter’s overall Premier League record now stands as:

  • 17 Games
  • 5 Wins
  • 6 Draws
  • 6 Defeats

All of which equates to a win percentage of just 29.4% – the lowest of any Chelsea manager in Premier League history. Now past the halfway point of the season, Chelsea sit 10th in the Premier League table, fully eleven points off the top four positions, with Champions League football looking increasingly unlikely.

Lavish Spending Yet to Reap Rewards

What may be particularly galling to Chelsea fans is the fact that recent results certainly can’t be attributed to any lack of ambition or investment on the part of owner Todd Boehly.

During the January transfer window alone, the club shelled out close to £323m, including the marquee captures of Enzo Fernandes and Mykhailo Mudryk. Considering that the Blues also splashed the cash to the tune of £278.4m in the summer window, the total spend is now just north of £600m.

It should be noted that Chelsea have prioritised youth in their transfer strategy, and many of the players may yet come good. Nevertheless, a mid-table position is falling some way below expectations.

Will Potter be the man to mould this collection of stars into a team? Only time will tell, but the next sequence of fixtures, beginning with a trip to London rivals Tottenham, is looking more vital than ever.

The Men Next in Line

Despite all of the above, Potter does remain in post for now, but that hasn’t stopped the rumour mill from moving into overdrive regarding a potential successor. Given the high-profile nature of the job, there would surely be no shortage of takers should the owners opt for a change in the hot seat. If the oddsmakers are to be believed, the following three men may be the managers most likely to step into the breach.

Mauricio Pochettino

The fifty-year-old Argentine is no stranger to a high-pressure job in the English capital, having managed Tottenham Hotspur between 2014 and 2019. Out of work since parting ways with PSG in July of 2022, Pochettino remains admired in the Premier League following his largely successful time at Spurs. Whilst no trophies were forthcoming during his five-year reign, he did take the North London club to the Champions League Final and posted a rock-solid win percentage of 54.27% across all games. If the immediate goal is to improve Chelsea from mid-table to top-four challengers, Pochettino could be the man for the job.

Zinedine Zidane

One of the greatest midfielders to ever lace up a pair of boots, French legend Zidane has proved equally adept at management. During two spells in charge at Real Madrid, Zidane led Los Blancos to the La Liga title in 2016/17 and 2019/20, in addition to bagging the biggest prize of all when winning the Champions League in 2015/16, 2016/17, and 2017/18 – adding to his four wins in the competition as a player. Out of work since leaving Real in 2021, Zidane has been consistently linked with the France managerial position and remains one of the hottest properties in the global game. If Todd Boehly is seeking an appointment to really set pulses racing, Zidane undoubtedly fits the bill.

Luis Enrique

Another name cropping up in conversation is that of Luis Enrique. A two-time La Liga and Champions League winner during his time in charge at Barcelona, Enrique was most recently sighted leading Spain at the World Cup. Having stepped down from that position on the back of a Last 16 elimination against Morocco, the time may now be right for the 52-year-old to step back into club management. Whilst Spain employed a tiki-taka style of football at the World Cup, Enrique has shown himself to be tactically and stylistically versatile during his career and may be tempted by the challenge presented by the Premier League.

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