Graham Potter hails ‘patient’ Denis Zakaria as Chelsea outcast finally makes impact at club


Graham Potter has hailed Denis Zakaria for holding his nerve to prove his quality at Chelsea.

Zakaria delivered a crucial midfield showing on his Blues Premier League debut as Chelsea saw off Bournemouth 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.

The Juventus loanee had to stay calm after joining on Thomas Tuchel’s watch, only to see the German coach quickly sacked by the new Chelsea owners.

Nicknamed ‘The Octopus’, Switzerland star Zakaria finally appears to be wrapping his tentacles around life at the west London club.

“Whenever Denis has played, he’s not let us down,” said Potter. “He played in the Champions League against Zagreb and scored, so he’s shown his quality.

“He has remained professional, worked really hard and it’s why he got his reward [against Bournemouth] with a decent performance and a contribution to a win.”

Zakaria will find himself in some battle to convince Chelsea to sign him on a permanent deal, with the Blues already boasting midfield depth and also looking strengthen in that area.

The 26-year-old has been a hit with his Chelsea teammates due to his upbeat nature and hard work however, which transferred into a fine performance against Bournemouth.

“I’ve said before, he has had to be patient because we have some good options in the midfield,” said Potter.

“It has to be remembered we didn’t lose for the first few games so it was hard for him to get that opportunity.”

Chelsea will head to Nottingham Forest on New Year’s Day, with Potter warning his players to expect a fearsome atmosphere at the City Ground.

Forest resumed their Premier League relegation battle by suffering a 3-0 thumping at Manchester United, but Potter will not let his players relax heading into 2023.

“You always have to be wary in the Premier League,” said Potter. “You can’t say it’s the greatest league in the world and then think there are easy games; there aren’t.

“Forest got a fantastic result against Liverpool before the break and I have huge respect for Steve Cooper and the job he has done there. He is a fantastic coach.

“So they’ll be ready and the atmosphere will be hostile I’m sure. It’s their first year back in the Premier League for a long, long time and every game – especially Chelsea coming to town – is a big game for them.

“So they’ll be motivated, have quality, and be fighting for the points. So we have to be ready.”