Graham Potter’s ‘long-term project’ at Chelsea didn’t even last seven months after the club opted to part ways with the former Brighton boss on Sunday evening.
The Blues’ defeat at home to Aston Villa proved to be the final straw as the west London outfit slipped into the bottom half of the Premier League table with nine games remaining.
Their only potential saving grace from a wretched 2022/23 campaign is the Champions League, but an imposing two-legged affair against holders Real Madrid awaits the two-time winners.
Reports suggest Chelsea will not rush in hiring Potter’s successor, although links to Julian Nagelsmann are already rife, and former Brighton defender Bruno Saltor will take charge of the club until the end of the season.
The Spaniard’s first task arrives swiftly as a dejected Liverpool visit Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night. Here’s how Chelsea could line up in their first game after Potter’s departure.
Potential XI: Kepa; James, Koulibaly, Badiashile; Loftus-Cheek, Fernandez, Kovacic, Chilwell; Mount, Havertz, Felix.
Despite his luxury of riches, Potter struggled to stumble upon an optimal formula in terms of both system and personnel. He persistently switched between a back three and four during his tenure, with neither approach garnering consistent success.
Chelsea have deployed a 3-4-3 in recent weeks and Bruno will likely retain this system given the quick turnaround from Saturday’s game. However, there should be personnel changes. Benoit Badiashile surely has to start on the left side of defence, while Mykhaylo Mudryk could be replaced by Mason Mount or Raheem Sterling in the XI.
N’Golo Kante is back in contention, but probably wouldn’t start in a two-man midfield. Enzo Fernandez and Mateo Kovacic have hardly been Chelsea’s biggest problem in recent weeks.
Potential XI: Kepa; James, Koulibaly, Badiashile, Chilwell; Fernandez, Kovacic, Mount; Sterling, Havertz, Felix.
Potter briefly used a 4-3-3 after Christmas, but it’s a system Bruno will find it hard to implement due to Chelsea’s current lack of a suitable holding midfielder. Enzo is the closest they’ve currently got, but the Argentine doesn’t possess the defensive acumen to perform the single pivot function.
Jorginho, who was used at the base of midfield, when Potter opted for this approach, is now playing his trade for potential title-winners Arsenal.
Potential XI: Kepa; James, Koulibaly, Badiashile, Chilwell; Fernandez, Kovacic; Felix, Mount, Sterling; Havertz.
There may not be too much difference between the 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 given the abstract nature of formations in the modern day. Chelsea’s possession structure, for example, is likely to be similar no matter what their formation is on paper.
Bruno has got to find a way of maximising his full-backs, who were so productive under Thomas Tuchel. Reece James and Ben Chilwell have each got to be let off their respective leashes, especially the former.
Tuchel’s Chelsea were revered for their wide rotations and ability to get these two players in optimal positions in the final third, but we saw little fluidity in wide areas during Potter’s tenure. It was all very up and down.
In a back four, it may seem harder to grant this freedom, but a 2-3-5 configuration with the ball – or something similar – could free up James and Chilwell in the final third.