Unfair to focus criticism on Sterling in 'tough period' for Chelsea – Potter

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Chelsea head coach Graham Potter thinks it is unfair for Raheem Sterling to be the focus of criticism when the whole team is failing to match expectations.

The Blues had enjoyed a solid start to Potter's tenure in charge, going unbeaten in his first nine matches, but a chastening 4-1 defeat away to his former club Brighton and Hove Albion saw the honeymoon period end in abrupt fashion.

A slender 2-1 win over Dinamo Zagreb followed in the Champions League, but Arsenal inflicted a second successive Premier League loss on Chelsea at the weekend as they left Stamford Bridge with a 1-0 victory.

Chelsea's performance in that London derby was desperately underwhelming, but Potter does not want one player taking the brunt of criticism, with Sterling – who struggled against the Gunners – coming in for a lot amid a muted start to life at the club that has some questioning his England future.

When Sterling's admission that he needs to offer more was brought up at Potter's pre-match press conference ahead of Wednesday's third-round EFL Cup trip to Manchester City, he said: "You can tell by his reaction, he's honest.

"Players go through moments in their career where it isn't so positive and sometimes they go through periods where everything they touch is gold, so to speak.

"I don't think you can zoom in on the individual; the team isn't functioning as well as we'd like. That has an impact on the individuals, and Raheem's part of the team, so the work is for us to improve the team, improve the structures.

"I've no doubt about Raheem's quality, ability. He's a proven top, top player."

Throughout his career to date, Potter has been praised for an ability to get the most out of his players, nurturing them to help them find a level they had not been to before.

This coaching was particularly seen at Brighton, where the club established something of a habit of signing players relatively cheaply and developing them into valuable assets.

Potter feels he has been working a similar way ever since joining Chelsea, but he was eager to point out that a significant overhaul in such a short period of time can take some adjusting to for everyone.

"You have to do that constantly," he continued. "That's what the job entails, not just for [Sterling], for lots of players because like I said, it's been a tough period.

"There's lots of things happening, change, new faces everywhere, trying to get it all to gel and settle down, and trying to develop a new playing style.

"As you can see, we've a lot of work to do, but that's why we came here, to produce a top team. There's a long way to go, but it's exciting."

Potter's excitement about the future at Chelsea certainly does not appear to have been tempered by their recent woes, and he puts that down to never kidding himself that it was always going to go well.

"I'd be lying if I said to you I didn't expect it at some point," Potter added. "When you take this job and challenge on, of course there will be times when it isn't a pleasant road.

"You have to deal with that, be honest. That's my responsibility, to take that on. We'll have a had six-week period in the end where we've had 13 matches, eight of them away.

"It takes a toll on everything. We've had injuries to key players, it can get messy, it's part of the process. I've been through it before, so it is what it is, that's part of what the job is to deal with it.

"I don't think you can ever predict football. When results were good, I was honest enough to say we still have a lot of things to improve.

"It wasn't as if we were sitting there thinking we've cracked football, by any means. Performance wise we can improve a lot. It's exciting, but that's the challenge."