CHELSEA has a new Tinkerman at the helm.
Former Blues boss Claudio Ranieri – who coached at Stamford Bridge from 2000 to 2004 – earned the famous nickname as a manager who loved to tweak his tactics.
But now Graham Potter is following in his footsteps.
After just nine games as Blues boss, the 47-year-old Englishman has already started SIX different formations.
He started the home game against RB Salzburg six weeks ago with a 3-5-2 before testing a 4-2-2-2 against Crystal Palace and a 3-4-2-1 against AC Milan.
A 4-2-3-1 was then tested in the win against Wolves, but he reverted to a 3-4-2-1 for the second leg against Milan.
The 3-4-2-1 was maintained in the 2-0 win over Aston Villa before moving to a 3-5-1-1 in the goalless draw with Brentford.
The playful 3-4-2-1 then rose again at the weekend against Manchester United, but Potter tinkered again on Tuesday night in Austria when he started with a 3-4-1-2.
And it bore fruit as goals from Mateo Kovacic and Kai Havertz earned them a deserved 2-1 win over Salzburg – three points that secured their place in the last 16.
And despite all of those nuanced tactical changes from Potter, Chelsea are yet to lose under the former Brighton man.
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It’s now nine games unbeaten for Potter – who has won six and drawn three since Thomas Tuchel took charge in early September.
And he’s already faced adversity since arriving.
Kalidou Koulibaly recently became the latest player to be ruled out of key games through injury – although he is expected to be back at the weekend.
But Potter also had to contend with the absences of N’Golo Kante, Wesley Fofana and Reece James.
First-choice goalkeeper Edouard Mendy also had to take a break from time to time.
His defense has been decimated but since he took charge they have only conceded four goals.
Their next block before the World Cup will no doubt be the real litmus test for this line of defence.
At the weekend there is a trip to Potter’s old place of work, Brighton.
And Chelsea then meet Dinamo Zagreb – who beat them under Tuchel – before Premier League games against Arsenal and Newcastle are sandwiched on either side of a Carabao Cup clash with Manchester City.
But the west London side will go into these games knowing their key players are successful.
Thiago Silva provides the lead and stability while Kovacic looks sensational in the middle of the park.
Just beforehand, Potter might have some reservations.
Pierre Emerick Aubameyang failed to score for the fourth straight game on Tuesday night.
And with Havertz, Raheem Sterling, Hakim Ziyech and Mason Mount all scoring just eight goals in all competitions, that could pose a problem across the board.
Potter will be hoping Armando Broja can push Aubameyang into a starting spot – which in turn could bring out the best in the former Arsenal skipper.
Still, Chelsea fans’ faith in their manager will only grow as Potterball takes shape.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/6526373/chelsea-verdict-graham-potter-tinkerman-formation-unbeaten/ Chelsea verdict: Graham Potter is the Blues’ new Tinkerman as he uses the SIXTH new formation against Salzburg – with great success