Some Chelsea fans are losing patience with Potter but he has club’s total backing

The last time Chelsea suffered three straight Premier League defeats, the manager was sacked soon afterwards. But history isn’t going to repeat itself.

Chelsea’s 1-0 loss at Newcastle on Saturday meant Graham Potter had emulated the undistinguished feat of Jose Mourinho seven years earlier (who lost to West Ham, Stoke and Liverpool between October-November and was fired in December 2015).

Anyone going on social media or even reading through some of the comments below articles from The Athletic will see an increasing section of supporters wanting Potter to suffer the same fate following losses to Brighton, Arsenal and the one at St James’ Park.

However, they’re in for disappointment. The Athletic sources, who need to maintain anonymous in order to protect their jobs, have made it clear the club’s new owners’ support for Potter and the long-term project they share is unwavering.

Indeed, this was communicated to the Englishman just a few days ago. Before anyone misconstrues this, it should not be mistaken for a vote of confidence, the phrase which has often been used when a manager on the verge of the sack gets rather unconvincing public backing from the hierarchy only to depart soon enough.

No club has looked forward to the World Cup break more than Chelsea. It isn’t a recent development. The 45-day interval between fixtures was earmarked as a key period by the club’s owners way back in the summer, long before the 2022-23 campaign got under way.

The feeling was understandable. It has been non-stop ever since the stresses of the takeover process began in March, a first transfer window to navigate and then trying to put ambitious plans in place, including making numerous changes to staff to run things behind the scenes. They have also invested in new facilities, particularly at Stamford Bridge, to improve the matchday experience for fans.


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With the team facing an intense schedule too, the World Cup was regarded as an important period on the calendar for things to calm down a little, an opportunity just to take stock without the pressures of results to worry about. It would also assist with putting moves together to buy players in January.

But, of course, things have not been going as well as the Todd Boehly-Clearlake consortium would have liked on the pitch. They made a very bold decision to sack popular head coach Thomas Tuchel in September and replaced him with the relatively inexperienced Potter.

Unrest among the fans is growing. Only bottom club Wolves (one) have accrued fewer points in the past five games than Potter’s side (two), plus they have been knocked out of the Carabao Cup at the third-round stage for the first time in 12 years.

You can imagine what the atmosphere would be like at Stamford Bridge had they been playing Bournemouth this Saturday rather than December 27. The tension in the air would have been palpable compared to what it is surely going to be next month, when the edge has been taken off a little.

Behdad Eghbali and Boehly attend games on a regular basis. After riding an initial wave of popularity following a Premier League record £250million-plus ($295m) spend on players, how will they react should fans in the crowd start making their feelings known like they did when Maurizio Sarri was in charge?

It doesn’t sound like it will make much of an impact. There were many factors for Tuchel’s departure but there is a significant difference here. Potter is their choice, their man and was given a five-year contract, a statement from the outset that this was a long-term process.

On the eve of the Newcastle fixture, Potter admitted he was looking forward to having a period without games to play and would use the opportunity to speak to the owners in more depth.

“I ended up here pretty quickly and you are into the washing machine in terms of the games and the turnaround,” he said. “You have to deal with all that which is going on and the amount of matches you play.

“You do need time to reflect and there is (that) because of the World Cup break. It would be stupid of me not to do that, to rejuvenate, to recover, to reflect, to improve. I’m pretty sure we will (have talks). We have regular dialogue so that’s part of an ongoing process.”

Those around the club have spoken about how the working relationship between the owners and the management team has been positive. More than one source close to the senior players, speaking anonymously to protect their jobs, have remarked recently how much “they loved Potter”. It should be pointed out this was before the recent downturn in results, which really started only a fortnight ago with the 4-1 loss at Brighton, but it marries up with what is revealed above.

There have been mitigating circumstances, as Potter was keen to point out following the Newcastle defeat, with injuries and fatigue taking their toll. The absence of N’Golo Kante, Reece James, Wesley Fofana, Ben Chilwell, Kepa Arrizabalaga, Carney Chukwuemeka and potentially now Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who limped off in the seventh minute at Newcastle, is being taken into account.

This is also a squad he inherited and the downturn had begun under Tuchel. But this is Chelsea, where expectations are high and excuses not accepted in the stands.

Some may be wondering whether the owners are prepared to reset their ambitions. On arrival, their minimum target was a top-four finish and qualifying for the Champions League. Just as in the Roman Abramovich era, the competition is important for the club’s finances and ability to attract players.

Nothing changed when Tuchel left and Potter arrived. Here we are two months later and it remains the goal despite Chelsea being eight points behind Tottenham in fourth and clearly needing an upturn in performances, let alone results. There are 24 games to climb back up the table. But Potter has been hired for future seasons, not just this one.

The owners also wanted a run in the Champions League and, in this regard, Potter has delivered, taking the team into the last 16 after they picked up just one point from the opening two group games. They face Borussia Dortmund over two legs next and the hope is they can progress.

The consortium also felt Potter was more prepared to give youth and homegrown talent a chance. Against Newcastle, Chelsea had six academy graduates in the starting XI, the most since a match versus Leeds in 1998. Notably, 18-year-old Lewis Hall was selected at left wing-back. That’s a nice statistic, but so is getting three points on a regular basis.

Conor Gallagher was one of the six academy graduates in Chelsea’s starting XI (Photo: Alex Dodd – CameraSport via Getty Images)

Chelsea are going on a training camp in Abu Dhabi next month, with non-World Cup players in attendance as well as those who are knocked out of the competition early. It will give Potter the ability to work on things and have something akin to a pre-season, albeit without the full squad available.

Greater bonds can be formed. But convincing a skeptical Chelsea following is going to take a lot longer.

(Top pic: George Wood/Getty Images)

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