Fan fury, squad sympathy and reluctant owners: How Graham Potter continues to cling on at Chelsea
Chelsea’s faith in Graham Potter is being severely tested after their season hit a new low against Southampton on Saturday.
Club insiders insist co-owner Todd Boehly and the board are prepared to back Potter through this difficult period.
But a 1-0 home defeat to the bottom team in the Premier League was the final straw for many supporters and Potter knows his position is under real threat.
Chelsea have now won just twice in their last 14 matches in all competitions and their season is in danger of falling apart.
Standard Sport understands Chelsea are reluctant to sack Potter, at least for a bit longer, with a business-as-usual approach at Stamford Bridge.
Potter has given his team a scheduled two days off but is planning to take training on Tuesday ahead of a high-stakes London derby against Tottenham on Sunday.
With anger among supporters growing, defeat at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium could surely prove to be the final straw. Fans have turned against Potter, who is relying on Chelsea’s owners keeping their nerve.
Potter was booed off after the final whistle on Saturday and it was not long before #PotterOut was trending on social media.
The Chelsea manager has acknowledged he is failing and that he is under pressure.
“I know people want something different,” he said. “I’m sure there will be people out there that think I’m the problem, absolutely. I don’t think they’re right.”
Potter is taking the brunt of the blame for Chelsea’s struggles. On Saturday, though, he tried to hint that the problems at Stamford Bridge are not all on him.
That is after his team having no discernible pattern of play despite the club spending over £500million on new players this season.
There are also complaints from supporters about Potter's personality, which is different from the aggressive charisma of former coaches like Jose Mourinho, Antonio Conte and Thomas Tuchel.
With fans furious at Potter, there remains a healthy respect in the squad for his friendly character, even though some are reserving judgement about his ability to do the job.
One source has described how “everything felt wrong” after a recent defeat, with players struggling to understand their problems on the pitch. But there is also sympathy that Potter has arrived at one of the toughest moments in the club’s history.
He is having to integrate 16 new players, keep a huge squad of 32 players happy and has had to handle an unprecedented injury list.
There have also been huge changes behind the scenes at Cobham and Stamford Bridge, and the club remains deep in transition following the takeover last summer.
Many players are simply angry at their situation rather than Potter specifically. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been exiled with no explanation. Mason Mount remains at a stalemate over a new contract and others have dropped down the pecking order for expensive but inexperienced new signings.
January signings were made for the future but are not helping the team now, Joao Felix arguably the exception in making an immediate impact. That is understandable given the new arrivals have an average age of 20.28 and little experience in European football.
In the eyes of fans, none of the excuses or promises matter anymore.
Chelsea’s owners have remained behind Potter despite fan discontent, and see Mikel Arteta’s early struggles at Arsenal as an example of a rebuild needing time.
There is similar admiration at Chelsea for the way Jurgen Klopp built at Liverpool, with the German coach needing three seasons until he challenged Manchester City.
Arteta and Klopp both finished eighth with Arsenal and Liverpool in their first seasons before going onto better things. But fans do not want to hear excuses, with Chelsea languishing down in 10th place and facing a Champions League exit after losing 1-0 to
In the eyes of fans, none of the excuses or promises matter anymore, with Chelsea on the verge of exiting the Champions League after a 1-0 defeat to Borussia Dortmund last week.
Potter has always been the figurehead of a new Boehly-Clearlake era after they paid a record £20m in compensation fee to appoint him from Brighton, alongside the addition of half a dozen backroom staff from the Amex Stadium.
Yet, as the anger from fans is becoming deafening for Potter, how much longer can Chelsea’s owners hold their nerve?