Chelsea: How To Move Forward

2023 has been a year to forget for Chelsea so far, with Thursday’s defeat to west London rivals Fulham at Craven Cottage condemning the club to their fourth result without a win since the turn of the year.

Graham Potter will be feeling desolate, with his team currently lying in 10th in the Premier League. The derby loss was worsened further by the fact that new signing Joao Felix picked up a three-match suspension for a second-half straight red card.

There needs to be an up-turn in performances, so we’ve broken down some of the areas that Potter must address moving forward.

Use the remainder of the season wisely
With little realistically left to play for in the league, it is time now to let the manager get on with his stated task of building Chelsea under the image of the new ownership, whilst navigating the massive personnel changes at the club.

Guus Hiddink led the team to a tenth-place finish in the 2015-16 season, following his interim appointment. His primary focus was to clean up the mess left behind by Jose Mourinho – a task he managed well, enabling the club to lay the foundations for Antonio Conte’s title win the following year.

Be adaptable
Potter has himself stated that his current role at Chelsea is ‘the hardest job in the world’, with it ultimately being very different to previous tasks faced at Ostersund and Brighton. A manager that is known for developing players to reach their potential, cannot realistically be expected to add to the games of Chelsea’s more senior players which currently make up the majority of the starting eleven.

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These seasoned pros require marshalling; they need tactical direction and an assured, inspiring man-manager to lead them in it. Potter has shown previously that this is not something he is incapable of doing, but now is the time to be bold and brave in his decision-making.

Stop the leaky defence
In Thomas Tuchel’s first 10 league fixtures, they conceded only two goals and they were unbeaten, with six victories in that period. Graham Potter’s side has conceded 12 in 12. With some key players in the back line out with injuries and not being close to a return, the manager needs his available players in defence to get back to basics.

Wesley Fofana, Ben Chilwell and Reece James are three key players that have been lost to injury, with Chilwell and James in particular being influential for Chelsea’s future hopes of success – not just for this season but beyond, so it is understandable that performances have faltered to a degree in their absence.

However, it cannot excuse the scale of the team’s defensive failings. Against Fulham, Trevoh Chalobah did not cover himself in glory, especially for the first goal, while Lewis Hall – though effective going forward – failed in his defensive duties and was vulnerable to the ball over the top.

The Youth will set you free
In 2019, Chelsea faced a crisis; instead of injuries that plague the squad currently, a transfer ban meant Lampard, the new kid on the block at the helm of Chelsea, could not use the market to strengthen.

The focus then became on academy graduates, giving a first taste of regular Premier League football to the likes of Abraham, Tomori, Mount, Hudson-Odoi, and James. In a period where a title challenge was unrealistic, it helped fans to feel that their club was staying true to its identity whilst undergoing a rebuild.

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Potter has been positive in his use of young players so far, with Hall, Bashir Humphreys, Omari Hutchinson and Carney Chukwuemeka all getting time on the pitch in recent weeks. He would do well to keep on this trend, as it will at least prove valuable moving forward – if not effective immediately.

Let the new boys set the standard
A red card on his debut was ridiculous, bordering on comical, for Joao Felix, but before that, he had looked exactly like the tonic that Potter’s side needed.

He had far and away been Chelsea’s most influential player, constantly looking to go forward in possession and inspiring in his teammates a readiness to take the game to the opposition that had been missing in recent weeks.

If the Blues are still in touch with the top six once he has served his ban, Europe will be a possibility with his presence in the team, especially if fellow new recruit Mudryk can also hit the ground running.

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