Chelsea faith in Graham Potter being tested as fans call for Roman Abramovich


The embarrassing nature of Chelsea’s FA Cup exit left their new owners facing the first real test of their faith in Graham Potter.

Co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali were both in attendance at the Etihad Stadium, as Chelsea slipped into a crisis. The Blues were 3-0 down in the second half when the first chants for former owner Roman Abramovich came from the away end. It was not long before the 9,000 travelling Chelsea supporters were singing “We’ve got Super Tommy Tuchel”, as the mood turned mutinous.

Those chants for his predecessor turned up the scrutiny on Potter, who then had to face understandable questions about whether his players were fighting for him. Chelsea’s owners have insisted they remain confident Potter will turn their season around.

Despite an obvious disappointment over results, they have invested in Potter to see the club through this period of transition and get them back on the right path. After this one-sided humbling against Manchester City, the question was whether they would hold their nerve.

Boehly and Eghbali committed to Potter after paying Brighton £20million in compensation to hire him in September. Eghbali assured Potter of his long-term future during talks in California during the World Cup and said the club was willing to ride out a difficult period.

Stick or twist? Chelsea co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali are facing a challenge (PA)
Stick or twist? Chelsea co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali are facing a challenge (PA)

Since the World Cup, though, Chelsea have won just one of four matches and have dropped to 10th in the Premier League, 10 points outside the top four and in real danger of missing out on Champions League qualification. Their performances are a concern. Injuries have hit hard but, worryingly, Chelsea players appear to lack a belief in their plan under Potter, who admits he must do better to stop their slide.

The Blues have scored just 20 goals in 17 Premier League games and their defence was all over the place on Sunday. The chants for Abramovich are unlikely to have gone down well with the new owners, who are under scrutiny for questionable recruitment.

Chelsea have spent more than £300million on transfers since they completed their takeover, but the team looks in decline. Kalidou Koulibaly, signed for £33m on a four-year deal, had a disastrous performance at City, while Marc Cucurella, a £60m signing, was dropped to the bench.

London derbies this week against Fulham and Crystal Palace could be crucial for Graham Potter

There is no doubt that Chelsea’s owners were left with issues in the squad from the Abramovich regime. After five major finals in six years, it feels like everyone involved at Chelsea, both past and present, must take some portion of blame for how this season is going.

It looks like the first season of the new era will be a trophyless one. Many frustrated fans have had enough and, in the eyes of a lot of them, the fault lies more with the new regime than the old. City manager Pep Guardiola offered his support to Potter, as he told Boehly to keep faith with the former Brighton boss.

“I would say to Todd Boehly, give him time,” said Guardiola. “Results are important in big clubs but I would say give him time.”

Matches this week against Fulham and Crystal Palace could be crucial for Potter. Chelsea travel to Craven Cottage on Thursday to face a side three points and three places above them in the table, before a home game against Palace on Sunday. Those matches could be key as Potter bids to prove he can turn their season around.

Chelsea players are not showing they are responding to Potter’s methods, but he insisted yesterday that he can motivate his squad to improve results.

“I am not getting any sense of people with a poor attitude,” he said. “Everyone wants to try to do better. I think there is support in the dressing room, it’s just we’re going through a bad moment, and sometimes when you have these moments you need somebody to blame, something to blame, and I understand where that question comes from.”

Potter said last week he believes the hire-and-fire approach of the Abramovich regime is over and he deserves to be given more time, but it is up to him to arrest their run.