WHEN Thomas Tuchel was brutally sacked on Wednesday, one was tempted to shrug and say ‘new owner, same old Chelsea’.
After all, Todd Boehly, the frontman of the Blues’ new ownership, had just sanctioned a record £259.1M spend on summer transfers, only for a popular manager to be axed six days after a window closed.
But while that dismissal came straight out of Roman Abramovich’s script, Boehly’s determined approach was a major departure for Brighton boss Graham Potter.
Potter is a humble, understated, hugely successful British boss, unlike any manager appointed by Chelsea in the last 20 years – or by any of the Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ for the best part of a decade.
So his forthcoming appointment is intriguing.
Of course, we still had to stifle a chuckle at reports of Chelsea Potter selling the idea of a “long-term project.”
Especially given the fact that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, a 33-year-old wobbler, had just been bought by Barcelona on the advice of his old Borussia Dortmund boss, Tuchel – only to see him sacked for his new club after 59 minutes of football.
Boehly is a very different owner from Abramovich — a hands-on front-of-house ramp hitter.
He’s also a Hollywood guy, obsessed with fame.
We know the American was hoping to sign Cristiano Ronaldo, 37, when the aging Galactico looked to leave Manchester United this summer but was only briefly treated by Tuchel.
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So maybe the idea of a “long-term project” is just the last short-lived idea Boehly had.
There was much amusement at the briefings immediately after Tuchel’s departure that Chelsea had created a three-man shortlist that included Potter, Mauricio Pochettino and Zinedine Zidane.
This seemed to sum up Boehly’s approach to running the club: “Well, the kind of manager we want is a former Football League left-back who worked his way up through the lower Swedish leagues and worked brilliantly at Brighton on a budget.
“Either that or one of the greatest footballers the world has ever seen, who has won three European Cups but has never coached anyone other than Real Madrid. So yes, that’s the type of profile we narrowed it down to.”
But Potter was clearly the first choice on this shortlist.
He has continued success in sane, stable environments at Swedish club Östersunds and at Brighton, both sides of a single season with Swansea City.
But he’s now going to the wildest unstable club in the world.
A brief synopsis of Chelsea Football Club since 2010 says it all – from winning the double to collapsing, winning the champions league, collapsing, winning the premier league, total and final collapse, winning the premier league to collapsing. ..
From a transfer embargo to being named European and World champions, to sanctioning an owner over ties to a land war in Europe, to record summer transfer spending to sacking the manager who picked those players.
So it’s fair to say that Potter is venturing into uncharted territory, and it’s no surprise that when Boehly met Chelsea on Wednesday afternoon he had to sell the job to the Seagulls’ boss, rather than the other way around.
In the past decade, only one Englishman has been named a Big Six boss – Frank Lampard.
But he was a very different sort of appointment than Potter – a club legend deployed to reconnect the club to its roots and nurture a talented group of youth players during a transfer embargo.
Potter is appointed solely on merit and deserves promotion.
But this appointment comes with a high degree of risk for both the club and the manager, not least because of the large severance payment Chelsea will be paying to Brighton, on top of the huge payout for Tuchel and his staff.
With the Seagulls, Potter relished the virtues of patience and modest expectations.
Not an instant hit, he was able to endure some poor form runs during his time with Amex, particularly at home, where they won just once in 14 games between September and May of last season.
Brummie, 47, enters a shark tank – where player power remains a bigger factor than at any other major English club and where owners new to football seem to be groping in the dark.
Potter doesn’t have the charisma or fame to demand instant respect.
He needs to convince the Chelsea players with the quality of his coaching and management.
It will be fascinating to see how he deals with some big egos, particularly Aubameyang, who has been stripped of his Arsenal captaincy and bombed out by Mikel Arteta.
Chelsea have spent £160m on Potter’s Brighton defensive trio Wesley Fofana, Kalidou Koulibaly and Marc Cucurella.
Still, they kept a clean sheet in six games and conceded ten goals.
Potter needs to reignite his fortunes after a poor start in both the Premier League and Champions League after Tuchel oversaw back-to-back away defeats at Southampton, Leeds and Dinamo Zagreb.
Yet as humble and reasonable as Potter is, he remains ambitious.
Had he turned down the chance to manage Chelsea, other big clubs might have balked.
And Boehly’s Blues, for all its early mayhem, doesn’t feel like the “same old Chelsea” of the Abramovich era.
The decision to choose Potter suggests it. And if Boehly sticks to his idea of a “long-term project,” then we know it.
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/6172074/thomas-tuchel-sacking-chelsea-todd-boehly-graham-potter/ The sacking of Thomas Tuchel doesn’t scream ‘same old Chelsea’ as brave Todd Boehly opts for the unassuming, unremarkable Graham Potter