Graham Potter believes he has the hardest job in football as Chelsea labor to get to grips with their “new chapter” since Todd Boehly bought the club.
The team have struggled in the wake of being sold by Roman Abramovich, who brought unprecedented success during his nearly two decades in control, with a huge transfer outlay sanctioned by Boehly during the last six months yet to pay off.
Chelsea are 10th in the Premier League despite having spent nearly £350m since the American took control, with supporters singing the name of Abramovich and former head coach Thomas Tuchel during Sunday’s 4-0 defeat at Manchester City in the FA Cup third round.
“I think this club was run in a certain way for 20 years, and really well,” Potter said. “I have the utmost respect for the previous ownership and what they achieved and what they did. It’s fantastic.
“But, unfortunately, they’re not here anymore. You’ve lost all that leadership. It’s a new ownership, everything’s changed pretty quickly. If you look what’s happened in the last six to 12 months, it’s an incredible amount that’s happened. Sometimes that can manifest itself in different ways.
“It would be disrespectful to say ‘well, that’s gone and we’ll just pick it up’. We’ve got new staff, new structures, new people. Lots of things went and you have to try to build it up again. But, in the meantime, you’ve still got Chelsea, you’ve still got the demands and the expectations.
“The reality of where the club is in terms of establishing itself as a well-run football club, functioning well in a really competitive environment, maybe we’re not quite there yet. In my head, that’s quite easy for me to understand and get. But I know there’s a lot of people that don’t see it that way.”
The team are in the grip of an injury crisis, with nine players still unavailable for the trip to Fulham and last summer’s transfer intake still largely struggling to make an impact.
“Change is challenging in any organisation,” Potter said. “It’s not like there’s some sort of coup gone on. This is what it is. We have to deal with the ‘new’ now. We have to build things up again because things have changed, things have gone and things have left.
“I think this is probably the hardest job in football. Because of the leadership change and because of the expectations and, rightly, where people see Chelsea. But I didn’t think we’d lose 10 first-team players. That’s just where we’re at.
“The previous ownership, it’s fantastic what they achieved. But this is a new era, a new chapter. Yeah, we’re going through some pain, it’s difficult at the moment. I understand the frustration and I appreciate the support.”
Pulisic facing lengthy lay-off
Meanwhile, Chelsea forward Christian Pulisic is facing months out through injury. Pulisic came off in the first half of Chelsea’s 1-0 home defeat to Manchester City in the Premier League with a knee problem.
Potter initially said the USA international would miss a couple of weeks but, following further assessment, the time frame around Pulisic’s return has shifted quite sizeably.
However, there is positive news about Chelsea’s other striking options with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang available for Thursday’s trip to Fulham.
Raheem Sterling’s situation is less clear – he was injured in the same league game against Man City – with Potter non-committal over the amount of time the forward will spend sidelines.
“Pierre is fine and he will be in the squad,” said Potter. “Christian is a couple of months we think. Raheem is less, hopefully less than that.”
Will Joao Felix play vs Fulham?
Joao Felix is a timely arrival on loan from Atletico Madrid for the remainder of the season with the news of Pulisic’s injury being more severe than first thought.
Chelsea confirmed their 13th first-team signing of Boehly’s ownership on Wednesday with Portugal international Joao Felix signing on loan from Atletico Madrid, with Potter hopeful the forward will receive clearance in time to face Fulham on Thursday night.
The 23-year-old, who was crowned European football’s ‘Golden Boy’ in 2019 before signing for Atletico from Benfica for £113m, will be required to make an immediate impact if Chelsea are to rekindle their faint hopes of qualifying for the Champions League .
Chelsea are paying around £9m as a loan fee and covering all the Portugal international’s wages, but do not have an option to buy Felix at the end of the season.
Potter admits the current injury crisis has “sharpened the focus of the club” in their pursuit of Felix.
Felix is thought to be in consideration for Thursday’s game at Fulham and Potter has said in terms of his fitness the forward is ready to be thrown straight in.
Potter added: “From a physical perspective, he can go in. It’s always a little bit of an unknown period as he is going from one club to another, but that’s on a case-to-case basis.”
Potter ‘in regular dialogue’ with owners
Potter is facing mounting pressure at Chelsea having lost five of the last seven matches in all competitions and the club languishing in 10th in the league table.
Chelsea fans voiced their discontent with the results by singing Thomas Tuchel’s name when the Blues were thrashed 4-0 at Man City in the FA Cup on Sunday.
Todd Boehly, the chairman of Chelsea, who agreed to pay a record £21.5m to bring Potter to Chelsea from Brighton after he sacked Tuchel in September, is thought to be standing by his man during this difficult spell.
Potter insists that is the case, saying: “I am in regular dialogue with all the owners and they’ve been really supportive. We speak two or three times a week, I’d say.”