Graham Potter ready for a challenge at Chelsea he couldn’t turn down



It can go wrong quite quickly, no matter how well you are run. It is only a few months ago that Brighton were getting booed for not shooting. He wouldn’t have been considered for this job then.

That isn’t necessarily a reflection of anyone’s coaching ability. It’s just what happens in a relatively chaotic middle tier with more mediocre players.

So, far from risking being out of favour in eight months – or even just going through another season of solid stability – it is instead feasible that Potter could win the Champions League in that time. He will at least get to test himself at that level, something he would only have seen as a far-off ambition when at Ostersunds for seven years. In that context, as well as what it does for his family, it is not really a question at all. The choice is obvious.

It’s not about money. It’s about trying to reach the top and make the best of your ability. Holding up the Champions League trophy is what they are in it for.

It is why the question of what is right for Potter’s own career is different to what is right for the game.

It is possible to entirely understand the 47-year-old’s decision and simultaneously lament what it means for anyone outside the big six. The gap is so great now that Potter pretty much has to consider the approach, since the same forces mean he can’t really dream of anything so great at the Amex.

What would constitute success with Brighton this season, after all? A cup run? European qualification? Both of those tend to get shut down by the big six, for precisely the same reason Chelsea are going for Potter. These clubs accumulate most of the resources so accumulate all the talent, the better the quicker.

Potter enjoyed a fine spell at Brighton

The tragedy is how fixed it makes the entire game. Any time there is anything interesting elsewhere, or a sign of something different, the same big names come along. And if it doesn’t work out? Well then Chelsea can just chew him up and go for the next option.

That points to why there are some risks for both parties, again related to that gap.

Potter has never faced the scrutiny of a club like this. There is an immense difference between a bad run in mid-table and three games without a win at Chelsea, all the more so when you don’t have the guarantee of prior success.

It is why some in the game talk of a recruitment issue among managers as well. The super clubs often go for the same circuit of names because they all require evidence a manager can do it at their level. Reaching a Champions League semi-final with Ajax, as even Erik ten Hag has found out, is not the same as restoring Manchester United.

This is why, since the “big six” became established around 2012, there have only been four occasions when they have effectively promoted a manager from a permanent job in the English league. These were: Rodgers from Swansea City to Liverpool; David Moyes from Everton to Manchester United; Pochettino from Southampton to Tottenham Hotspur; Frank Lampard from Derby County to Chelsea.

Even Lampard only really got the job because Chelsea were going through a transfer ban and he offered the emotional connection that altered the dynamic. It was similar with a restructuring Arsenal giving Mikel Arteta his first job.

Chelsea, for their part, now want to go a different way. The new owners want this first managerial appointment to be something of a mission statement for the way forward, to show what they are about.

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That is a personality that fully buys into the approach. It’s not just about ad hoc winning but succeeding as part of a greater culture, while bringing through young players in a progressive ideal of football.

That, at least, has been the pitch. Results, as Thomas Tuchel found, can quickly change any deeper principles.

Potter is going to find that, too. It’s a more difficult challenge than he’s ever had. That is precisely why it’s so difficult to turn down. Quite the opposite. He is more than willing to go for it.

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