Senior Chelsea players tell Graham Potter last pre-season was worst they’d had

Senior Chelsea players tell Graham Potter last pre-season was worst they’d had

Graham Potter has revealed some senior Chelsea players told him that last summer’s pre-season preparations under his predecessor were the worst they had ever experienced.

The team endured a turbulent two-week tour of the US during which former boss Thomas Tuchel became frustrated with planning and organisation, leading to a breakdown in his relationship with the club hierarchy.

It came amidst an unprecedented turnover of personnel on and off the pitch following the club’s sale to Todd Boehly’s Clearlake Capital consortium, with a number of influential figures leaving the club, including chairman Bruce Buck and technical advisor Petr Cech. The departure of Roman Abramovich after 20 years of ownership was also felt.

Tuchel was sacked in September less than seven weeks after the team returned home, having publicly questioned the professionalism of his players following a friendly defeat to Arsenal and criticising the club’s choice of tour destination.

His removal marked the end point of a rapid decline following victory over Manchester City in the Champions League final in Porto a year previously.

Potter, who was appointed as Chelsea’s new manager six league games into the season, has inherited the fallout from that overhaul, with his new-look side’s struggle to find form culminating in a chastening 1-0 defeat at home to the Premier League’s bottom side Southampton last Saturday.

Players signed during the January transfer window at a total cost of more than £315million are yet to make a decisive impact on improving the team’s fortunes.

Thomas Tuchel
Thomas Tuchel was sacked six weeks after Chelsea’s pre-season tour of the US (Steven Paston/PA)

“It’s really tough,” said Potter, whose 10th-place side travel to face Tottenham on Sunday. “I’ve said this is the toughest job in football. There’s lots of factors for that. We had a sub-optimal pre-season, speaking to our experienced guys, they thought it was the worst they’d ever had. That’s not to blame anybody. It happened.

“Organisationally, the tour didn’t work as well as they’d like. I wasn’t there, I can’t say. Then there was a manager change, old players have left, new players have come in. Then I turn up in the middle of the Champions League, (playing) Saturday-Tuesday, Saturday-Tuesday. We had the most unprecedented injury situation in that period.

“Then the club invested a lot of money in the squad, which (raises) the pressure, the expectation, the noise. But the players that we’ve got, they’re not 28-year-old, 400-game Premier League players. They’re young players that need time to adapt.”

Enzo Fernandez
Enzo Fernandez was the most expensive of Chelsea’s January signings, though there has been little upturn in form (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Potter was subject to a small number of supporters at Stamford Bridge calling for him to leave following defeat to Saints, with attacks on social media becoming increasingly personal.

His team have won just twice in their last 14 games, and have scored a single goal at home in 2023.

He admitted pressures of the job were compounded by the reaction of a minority of fans, but acknowledged little sympathy for his situation exists in the media and amongst supporters.

“I don’t think anybody is really bothered,” he said. “That’s the truth. Because I’m the manager of Chelsea. I’ve been asked for four months about pressure. When the results are what they are, you accept it.

“It’s fascinating to see the process play itself out. I’ve sat here for four months and answered questions about pressure, about time, have you spoken to the owners. It’s the same questions every week.

“The mood (with reporters) has always been relatively positive and respectful. But it’s not to say it’s easy. Your family life suffers, your mental health suffers. Your personality. It’s hard. (The media) are not really bothered. That’s how it is.

“Supporters are entitled to be angry. My response is there are things that are contributing factors to that result (against Southampton). I’m not here to convince them (with words). My actions have got to convince them. We’ve got to win matches. There’s nothing I can say.”