Familiar finishing woes trouble Graham Potter on promising Chelsea bow
Football

Familiar finishing woes trouble Graham Potter on promising Chelsea bow


For all of Chelsea’s defensive structure and solidity under Thomas Tuchel, the German was given his marching orders at least in part due to his inability to make the Blues a formidable attacking side.

He had a plethora of forward options at his disposal, but even after the near-£100m re-signing of Romelu Lukaku last summer, Chelsea still couldn’t blow teams away on a regular basis. In the second half of Tuchel’s reign, they could barely squeak past them either.

Todd Boehly’s desire to build an all-conquering football team has since led him to appointing his first new head coach in the shape of Brighton’s Graham Potter.

A lot has been made of whether the former Ostersunds boss will be able to make the step up, whether he will be able to command the respect of a dressing room filled with infinitely bigger egos than he’s ever managed, but the first impressions were positive.

Potter’s first match in charge came on Wednesday evening, making his Champions League managerial debut against Salzburg at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea opened the game with plenty of pressing, vertical passing and intensity. It’s the sort of impact you’d expect a team with a ‘new manager bounce’ to have, but the Blues looked far more fun and up for the fight than they’ve been maybe all calendar year.

Just after the interval, Raheem Sterling – deployed by Potter as a wing-back who played right on the touchline – cut inside and opened the scoring with a wicked curled finish. It was exactly what Chelsea deserved.

However, the evening was soured by a late Salzburg equaliser completely against the run of play, with Thiago Silva’s weak defending allowing Noah Okafor to creep in and score the game’s final goal.

Chelsea played with a clear plan and identity, but were made to rue missed chances, and that’s not an entirely new story in recent times. It’s hardly an unfamiliar one for a team managed by Potter, either.

One of Potter’s biggest criticisms at Brighton was related to the amount of draws racked up where they had played well enough to win. The Seagulls would often go on long runs without victory to the irk of their supporters (which the 47-year-old did not take kindly to).

It was a frequent occurrence on the south coast, and it only really changed down the stretch of last season when they finally showed some ruthlessness and put opponents to the sword, earning a club-record ninth-place finish.

Potter eventually got his Brighton side firing after three years in charge, but he won’t be afford that same time at Chelsea regardless of how many reports about their long-term commitment to him creep up.

In theory, having more historically prolific attackers at his disposal should mean that more chances will lead to more goals. But Chelsea have tried to find that scoring freedom in the past with the likes of Maurizio Sarri and Frank Lampard, and it didn’t quite go to those respective plans.

Nevertheless, Potter is likely to succeed if his Blues play the way they did on Wednesday. It’s on the players to do their part and provide the finishing touches.



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