Graham Potter admits he one day wants to copy Arsenal’s tactical model ahead of London Derby


A week on from his worst day as Chelsea manager and Graham Potter declares his belief is not shaken.

A 4-1 defeat at Brighton was every bit as painful as it sounds for the coach who left Sussex for Stamford Bridge just two months ago.

But you don’t forge a career path like Potter has — from university coaching to Sweden and then on to Brighton via Swansea in the Championship — without taking the odd kick to the shins. Nor by changing your methods every time something fails.

‘When you are trying to do something new, there will be a chance it goes wrong,’ said Potter yesterday. ‘That sounds a bit strange because you should come across as this all-knowing person, but the reality of making progress and the reality of doing something different and new is that you have to be prepared to look an idiot.

‘If it goes wrong or it fails you are open to criticism. But the flipside of that is that if you just do the same stuff then nothing changes. It’s that balance we look for. You have to have the courage to do that and accept the consequences when it doesn’t go your way.’

The most obvious consequence of last week’s defeat was the end of Potter’s nine-game unbeaten record at his new club.

More broadly it prompted questioning of the 47-year-old’s fondness for changing formation and experimenting with some players in what one may generously describe as unusual positions. On Match of the Day, Ian Wright suggested Potter’s use of Raheem Sterling as wing-back should ‘go in the bin’.

Potter is like most coaches in that he does not buy into the seemingly endless analysis of systems and formations. Equally he looks at Sunday’s opponents Arsenal and admits that he sees something in terms of consistency of selection that he may one day wish to have.

The Gunners have eight players who have started every one of their 12 Premier League games this season. Chelsea have none. Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta has used just two systems across domestic and European competitions, while Potter has tried five or six already.

‘Yes, stability is far better than constant change in terms of progression and moving forward,’ he said.

‘So that’s our challenge. I wouldn’t say I have been experimenting. I do have an idea of how I want us to play football. It depends on where the players are at and what we have available. But it’s not rocket science. Players get better if they play.

‘So you have to put your belief and trust in players who can perform every week. They do get better with game time.’

Potter has started 21 players in the Premier League and Champions League so far. That is something that nods both to the hectic nature of the current season in advance of the World Cup and also the traditionally chaotic and short-term nature of Chelsea’s recruitment in recent times.

When new owner Todd Boehly recruited Potter after sacking Thomas Tuchel in September, it was with a view to changing the culture of how the club went about buying and developing players. It is something Potter insists must happen.

‘I would say it’s lots of things in terms of aligning resources in a better way,’ he said when asked how Chelsea should look to close the gap on England’s most potent force, Manchester City.

‘How you recruit. How you develop the football idea. We need time in that regard with the changes we’ve been through and probably a little bit of stability also. Then we will continue to work on the football idea. Those I would say are the two main areas.’

Again this points not just to City but tomorrow’s opponents. Arsenal have finished above Chelsea only once in the last 10 years, but are top of the Premier League today after placing faith in Arteta when other club perhaps would not have.

Would the old Chelsea have retained Arteta after consecutive finishes of eighth, eighth and fifth? Undoubtedly not. Would indeed the new one?

‘Arsenal are top on merit,’ Potter said. ‘They have had three years of working with Mikel, building and building. We are at the start of quite an exciting project with lots of things that have happened behind the scenes, lots of change and lots of instability.

‘What I like is that they identified Mikel and supported him through difficult times.

‘There have been times when he has been under pressure, certainly from the outside.

‘Take the rivalry of Arsenal and Chelsea away and that is quite a good thing from a coach’s perspective to see a club support and back him and come through. They are getting the rewards now.

‘It is a combination of good work from him and the staff and good recruitment and support.

‘It sounds straightforward but it isn’t.’


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