Potter’s No1 priority must be to restore Chelsea squad’s confidence after his £100m selection call on debut backfires
AS a Chelsea manager it is not that difficult to leave £100 million of talent out of your team.
But when it is your opening night and your first big call it is something of a statement.
Graham Potter’s decision to drop Wesley Fofana and Kalidou Koulibaly triggered a sense of anticipation that something radical was happening.
Both new signings and both centre halves – it was a significant shake up of the defence for starters.
Especially when Potter’s old Brighton player Marc Cucurella played as a left-sided centre back.
Reece James was employed as a right wing back with Sterling on the opposite flank. Although there was a lot of ‘wing’ and not much ‘back’ to Sterling’s game.
So much emphasis is placed on tactics in the over-analysed modern game that a positional shift of five yards for one player creates raptures and rage in equal measure among the hipsters who live for low-blocks and transitions.
Tactics make differences but there is nothing like sacking a manager to get a team suddenly to up its game.
And there was an early sign of an increase in tempo from Chelsea compared to last week’s tripe dished up at Dinamo Zagreb.
New boss Potter did not receive an official unveiling to the crowd.
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He simply stood, in black suit, using positive encouragement with his players – gone were the animated gestures of his recently departed predecessor Thomas Tuchel.
There was no sign of the regular touchline dressing downs aimed at random players either under the old head coach which often made for better viewing than some of the football.
Clearly Potter will take a carrot and not a stick approach to encouraging his players.
Even so, feisty Tuchel’s 19 months in charge did bring in a second Champions League title last year and the Chelsea fans wanted to say thanks and goodbye by chanting his name in the 21st minute.
Chelsea had registered zero shots on target at that time and forced Salzburg keeper Philipp Kohn to make only two saves by half time.
Despite the arrival of a new boss and the subsequent rise in commitment, it was still same old Chelsea until Sterling scored three minutes into the second half.
Yet still the problems and lack of confidence which has been dogging Chelsea for some time now persisted.
That is going to be a slow process for Potter to work on. But it must be his top priority.
Against a team from one of the weakest leagues in Europe they could not press home their advantage and ultimately it cost Potter a big win on debut night.
And having left two key defenders out it was one he kept on the pitch who played a key role in their undoing.
Thiago Silva’s poorly timed tackle on Salzburg’s Junior Adamu exposed the defence and in-form Noah Okafor, with four goals in four games, added a fifth with a low shot that added to the misery as it cannoned off the inside of skipper Cesar Azpilicueta’s leg on its way into the net.
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