Fun and freedom the focus for Graham Potter but the real work will begin after new Chelsea manager’s debut

Fun and freedom the focus for Graham Potter but the real work will begin after new Chelsea manager’s debut

Less than a week into the job and Graham Potter has already lifted the mood at Chelsea.

Potter has been tasked with bringing the club together and, as he prepares for his first match in charge against RB Salzburg tonight, there is a different feeling around Stamford Bridge.

Since taking over last week, Potter, along with his backroom team Billy Reid, Bjorn Hamberg, Bruno and Ben Roberts, has adopted a personal approach to improve the atmosphere in a squad that was lacking confidence and showing cracks under Thomas Tuchel.

Sections of the dressing room had grown frustrated by what they felt was an increasingly distant Tuchel, who would also often criticise his players publicly in interviews.

Potter has given players responsibility on how to help progress the team after a poor start to the season. The 47-year-old former Brighton manager has told the squad he will hold up face-to-face meetings with every player before the international break, allowing them to have their say and allowing him to understand what drives them.

Many have already held meetings with Potter, who likes his players to take a lot of responsibility, placing himself as their equal and not necessarily as an authoritarian figure.

Laughter has returned to the Chelsea training ground at Cobham, with yesterday’s open session showing players looking relaxed ahead of what is an important match after the Blues slumped to a 1-0 defeat at Dinamo Zagreb in their Group E opener last week.

“The key thing is to try and understand them, what motivates them and what they are like as people,” said Potter on one of his first days in the job. “From that, try to come to some common ground, build relationships, communicate effectively on a daily basis. And to build respect, build trust, build honesty, so my starting point would always be the person first.

“It is about creating a team that competes, that has respect for each other, that is honest, that works together. So it is a combination of football and human values that we try to work with. I think you have to understand that they are human beings first.”

His training sessions have been fun and simple to begin with. On Saturday, the players enjoyed an 11 v 11 match after their game against Fulham was postponed.

There have been further small-sided games this week before a tactical session ahead of the visit of Salzburg.

”We are adapting to the new coach,” said vice-captain Jorginho. “We are very excited to work with him and his staff. The first few days have been very good.

”You need to work a lot. Meetings, seeing what the new manager brings to us and trying to understand as quickly as possible what he wants from us on the pitch. He has been doing that very well, asking if we feel comfortable with what he is proposing.

”That is very positive and that is the way we need to keep it going because there is a lot of new information and we need to try to understand all that information and help each other with the communication so we can get even better.”

 (Chelsea FC via Getty Images)
(Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Potter has kept Tuchel’s former set-piece and assistant coach Anthony Barry around his set up, linking the old and new regimes.

Initially, he is expected to stick with Tuchel’s 3-4-3 which he used heavily at Brighton. Over time, though, Potter wants develop other systems, including ones with a back-four, and ask his team to be flexible so they can keep changing shape during matches.

His methods have not yet hit the heights of innovation he used at Ostersunds in Sweden, where players were asked to perform a rock opera and a ballet.

Potter has so far played it safe as he works out the characters in his squad, but he will stop at nothing to implement his vision.

Chelsea must first get over the line against Salzburg and then bigger changes are expected after the upcoming international, with their next match not until October 1 because their game with Liverpool on Sunday has been postponed.