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Chelsea sack Potter: Who are the contenders to replace former Blues boss?

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 2 Apr 2023

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Just 206 days after Chelsea owner Todd Boehly assured the world that incoming head coach Graham Potter would be given time at Chelsea, the American decided to terminate the former Brighton and Hove Albion boss’ contract.

That is fewer days in charge than any permanent manager/head coach at Stamford Bridge during the Roman Abramovich era, but it was not a decision taken without reason.

Chelsea sit 11th in the Premier League, with 38 points from 28 games their worst total at this stage since the 1994-95 season (36), while the Blues are in the bottom half of the table after at least 28 games for the first time since 1995-96, when they finished 11th.

Potter won just 12 of his 31 games in charge after arriving from Brighton in September (D8 L11), ultimately paying the price after Chelsea’s dismal 2-0 home defeat to Aston Villa on Saturday.

So who will Boehly turn to next having given up on the Potter project? Stats Perform has taken a look at some of the early favourites.

Julian Nagelsmann

The German will probably have been the first name many thought of when news of Potter’s sacking broke on Sunday, with Nagelsmann facing the same fate at Bayern Munich just a few days prior.

It would be somewhat of a coincidence given the 35-year-old was replaced at Bayern by former Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel, who had been replaced at Stamford Bridge by Potter.

Nagelsmann has been one of the most highly-rated young coaches in Europe since his work at Hoffenheim, where he boasted a record of 55 wins from 136 games (40 per cent), before upping that win percentage at RB Leipzig to 57 (54 wins from 95 games).

That was enough to convince Bayern he should replace Hansi Flick in July 2021, but despite winning the Bundesliga in what proved to be his only full season at the Allianz Arena, and reaching the quarter-finals of this season’s Champions League, the club removed him.

Several of his former players at Bayern praised him in the days since, but you do wonder if someone who was not deemed a good fit at a similarly sized and demanding club would be a good fit for Chelsea.

Brendan Rodgers

The former Liverpool and Leicester City boss was sacked by the Foxes just hours before Potter got his marching orders, and on paper it doesn’t sound like it would be much of an improvement.

Rodgers almost won the Premier League title with Liverpool in 2013-14 before his team regressed the following season after selling Luis Suarez, but he repaired his reputation at the King Power Stadium.

He won the FA Cup in 2020-21, beating Chelsea 1-0 in the final, and ended his time with the Foxes with a record of 92 wins from 204 games (D42 L70), a win percentage of 45.

Rodgers did learn the ropes as a youth coach at Chelsea though, and is arguably more of the same should Boehly still like the idea of a Potter-type of coach who favours a mix of pressing and possession.

It does feel like a job a bit beyond the 50-year-old, though it was not that long ago that some pundits were suggesting Arsenal should sack Mikel Arteta and hire Rodgers. Football, eh?

Mauricio Pochettino

The Argentinian was a very popular figure during his time at Tottenham, and he has been strongly linked with succeeding Antonio Conte at his former club.

Pochettino may not have won a trophy at Spurs, but he presided over two title challenges and the run to the 2019 Champions League final, which resulted in a 2-0 defeat to Liverpool.

His five-year reign included 113 wins from 202 Premier League games, a points-per-game (PPG) average of 1.89, before he was eventually dismissed by chairman Daniel Levy after appearing to take the club as far as he could.

Pochettino landed at Paris Saint-Germain, where he won a Ligue 1 title as well as a Coupe de France and Trophee des Champions, but failures in the Champions League and losing out on the 2020-21 French title to Lille were low points, albeit he only took over halfway through that season.

He is therefore perhaps more suited to more of an underdog than one that operates in the way Chelsea does.

On the other hand, perhaps he could tempt Harry Kane across London.

Luis Enrique

The former Real Madrid and Barcelona player most recently won 27 of 48 games as Spain head coach, but international football can be a different world to the top-level club game.

Luis Enrique was very successful in his last club job at Barca, though it admittedly helped having a front three of Lionel Messi, Suarez and Neymar all at their peak.

He won two LaLiga titles, three Copa del Rey crowns, a Supercopa de Espana, a European Super Cup and a Club World Cup, as well as the 2014-15 Champions League as part of a historic treble.

Overall, Luis Enrique won 87 of his 114 LaLiga games (2.4 PPG), and has shown that he can take a team of superstars and get plenty out of them while managing egos.

However, the fact he has not had a club job since 2017 might be seen as problematic by some fans, while it could also be argued he underachieved with Spain.

Roberto De Zerbi

It would really be a kick in the teeth for Brighton to have Chelsea take another of their head coaches so soon after luring Potter away, but on paper, this could make all the sense in the world for the Blues.

Potter earned the Chelsea gig from the fantastic work he did on the south coast, with De Zerbi replacing him as Seagulls boss after his departure.

The Italian has taken Brighton to another level since his arrival, with the club remarkably still in with a reasonable chance of finishing in the European spots, and perhaps even the top four.

De Zerbi has averaged 1.50 points per game, winning eight of his 20 league games in charge, as well as guiding Brighton to the FA Cup semi-finals.

Having De Zerbi develop the foundations laid by Potter could work twice, though it would likely cost Chelsea a fortune to find out, not that that usually deters them.

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