Graham Potter: Keeping Chelsea’s new-look squad happy is an exciting test

Graham Potter: Keeping Chelsea’s new-look squad happy is an exciting test

Graham Potter accepted there will be frustration amongst some of his players as he begins the task of integrating Chelsea’s new signings following a whirlwind January transfer window.

The deadline-day arrival of Enzo Fernandez for a British-record fee took the club’s signings during the window to eight, and Potter must decide by 11pm on Thursday which three of those he will include in his Champions League squad.

Potter admitted there will be “awkward conversations” to be had, with problems over selection from his bloated squad inevitably spilling over into the club’s Premier League campaign, with 33 first-team players on the books.

Four injured players are expected to be back for Fulham’s visit to Stamford Bridge on Friday night, with Ben Chilwell, Reece James, Raheem Sterling and Ruben Loftus-Cheek all fit enough to play some part. The club are waiting to hear whether Fernandez will receive clearance in time to feature.

Returning faces will likely place more pressure on Potter to placate his squad following owner Todd Boehly’s spending spree, but he was optimistic that the added competition can work in the team’s favour.

“Challenge is the right word,” said Potter. “I’m certainly not complaining about it. It’s exciting. It’s a test for me, of course, and for the staff, but it’s an exciting one.

“We’ve got a lot of really good players. We have to create an environment where there’s healthy competition and they can push each other, but at the same time understand that there’s going to be frustration at times, because only 11 can play. That’s how it is.

Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur – Premier League – Stamford Bridge
Chelsea owner Todd Boehly went on a January spending spree (John Walton/PA)

“We’ve got a lot of important games, and we need to improve our results. It’s about playing, about supporting the team and being ready to play.”

Potter’s first test will come when he submits his selection for the Champions League knock-out stages on Thursday night, with three additional players allowed to be added to the list from earlier in the season.

Players are allowed to have featured for another side in Europe during the season, meaning Fernandez and fellow new signing Joao Felix are eligible for inclusion. Chelsea play Borussia Dortmund in the last-16 first leg on February 15.

“We’re aware of who we need to speak to,” Potter added. “There’s going to be a few awkward conversations. That’s the reality of where we are. Only 11 can play, only a certain amount can be in the squad.

Fulham v Chelsea – Premier League – Craven Cottage
Joao Felix can feature for Chelsea in the Champions League (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“There’s always going to be players who are disappointed. It’s about being as honest, open, respectful and transparent as you can.

“You have to create an environment where you respect the fact that people want to play and compete and help the team, but they have to be patient.

“If you spend money, the external noise goes up. I understand that.

“I’ve always said resources is one thing, spending money is one thing, but you need to be able to align them, you need to be able to make the right decisions, you need to be able to provide a culture, a team, an environment.

“It’s not the amount you spend that gets success. It’s more than that.”