Graham Potter must change Chelsea tune as defeatist attitude strikes wrong chord with fans

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Graham Potter is losing the PR battle, as he fights to stop Chelsea supporters turning on him.

Ahead of Thursday’s west London derby against Fulham at Craven Cottage, Potter described his Chelsea job as “the hardest in football”.

There is no doubt he is facing huge challenges but his comments are not what supporters want to hear, and show a misunderstanding of the culture at the club. Chelsea fans are used to winners such as Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Antonio Conte and Thomas Tuchel.

Potter talks about a period of “suffering” and “pain” but that is not the attitude supporters expect from the manager of a club which wants to be challenging for major trophies.

Tuchel was an excellent communicator and understood what was expected. He spoke about building a team that “nobody wants to play against” and used the uncertainty around Roman Abramovich last year to create a siege mentality at Chelsea.

Solution needed: Under-fire Graham Potter must stop the rot at Chelsea... and quickly (Getty Images)
Solution needed: Under-fire Graham Potter must stop the rot at Chelsea... and quickly (Getty Images)

Mourinho exuded youthful charisma, arrogance and aggression, while Conte promised to forge a “blazing inferno” when he was appointed. They all helped build a culture that Chelsea fans enjoyed. When things did not go well, the manager was quickly replaced and success with a new one soon followed.

Chelsea won 21 trophies in 19 years under Abramovich, making them the most successful club in England in that time. Excuses were not good enough in a hire-and-fire culture, and that approach resulted in the most successful period in the club’s history. Chelsea’s new owners want to do things differently post-Abramovich but their faith in a long-term vision is being tested.

They insist Potter retains their full support. They have hired new senior staff in almost every department across the club and have spent £300million in the transfer market since their takeover last year. But, with Chelsea in 10th place in the Premier League, supporters chanted for Abramovich and Tuchel during Sunday’s 4-0 FA Cup defeat at Manchester City.

Another bad result on Thursday and things could turn ugly when Chelsea host Crystal Palace on Sunday. On Wednesday, Potter attempted to explain what is going wrong at Chelsea. He spoke about a leadership vacuum at Stamford Bridge.

A defeatist attitude will not strike the right chord with Chelsea supporters, who want authority, not excuses

He said he did not want sympathy over the size of the job he faces and in many aspects he was right about the problems at Chelsea. Unfortunately, a defeatist attitude will not strike the right chord with Chelsea supporters, who want authority, not excuses.

Petr Cech, Marina Granovskaia, Bruce Buck and Paulo Ferreira, had they still been at the club, could have explained to Potter and the new owners what fans might want to hear.

Instead, supporters are getting respectful explanations from Potter, like describing Manchester City as “top opponents” and saying facing Pep Guardiola’s side again in the FA Cup at the weekend was “not the best fixture” for a side who are struggling.

Back-to-back defeats against City has left Chelsea’s season in tatters, and the atmosphere in the dressing room is similar to the mood in the stands.

Players have faced criticism on social media, and negativity has led to poor body language on the pitch. Chelsea are 10 points off the top four and defeat on Thursday could all but end their Champions League hopes.

“We are not downing tools or throwing in the towel,” said Potter. “We are still ambitious. We want to win. We want to compete at the top of the Premier League. That is what I am here for — we are trying to build a winning team and culture. We are not there at the moment but need to keep working.”

Only a win at Craven Cottage will do for supporters but that will not be easy against a Fulham side flying under Marco Silva and above the Blues in the table.