The start of Graham Potter’s tenure didn’t exactly go to plan on Wednesday as Chelsea were held to a 1-1 draw with Red Bull Salzburg, leaving them bottom of their Champions League group after two games.
There were some welcome changes from the new boss, but also some familiar concerns, highlighting just how much work Potter has to do to turn Chelsea into European and domestic contenders once again.
Here’s what we learned from Potter’s debut.
Few players have seen their role shift more drastically than Raheem Sterling, who was an attacking midfielder under Thomas Tuchel but played as a funky wing-back hybrid against Salzburg.
Instructed to stay as wide as possible – often isolating himself from play – it initially looked as though the summer signing might be wasted in such a position, but Potter’s logic was soon evident as Sterling started finding himself in the box with alarming regularity.
The extra space afforded to him meant Sterling had plenty of opportunities to get into Salzburg’s box, and his goal was one of real quality. Once he gets this role down, he could be in for a fun year.
Chelsea fans were on their feet in the opening few minutes in response to what was clearly a faster tempo from the Blues.
Passes were quicker and players were clearly being encouraged to run at their defenders, with one fleet-footed moment from Mason Mount in particular drawing praise from the Stamford Bridge faithful.
High speed is clearly something Potter is looking for, and it made for some fun watching.
The formation and style of play was different, but the results were largely the same. Chelsea were wasteful in attack and sloppy in defence.
Perhaps it’s just a case of getting used to the new system, but it’s clear that Potter has more than just tactical work to do to bring the best out of his new side at both ends of the field.
Sloppy mistakes and a reluctance to take risks were common under Tuchel and are threatening to remain in the Potter era.
Kai Havertz looked decent, if uninspiring, against Salzburg, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang continued to struggle in front of goal.
In just over 20 minutes off the bench, Armando Broja eclipsed both players’ impact on the game. He nearly set up a winner for Hakim Ziyech before skying a good chance to be the hero himself.
The young striker has inked a new contract to stick around for the long-term, but he might not have to wait that long if he keeps outperforming his team-mates.
While Broja almost seized his chance off the bench, the same cannot be said for a handful of other fringe players.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek was quiet but bigger concerns have to be drawn over Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic who, like they did under Tuchel, failed to have any positive impact on the game when introduced.
The duo’s confidence obviously isn’t going to return overnight, but it’s clear that they need more than just a change in manager.
Jorghino insists Italy’s rebuild has ‘already begun’ following win over England
Jorginho has spoken positively about the Italian national team’s future following their victory over England, using a new formation.
Italy saw off England in a 1-0 victory in matchday five of the 2022/23 Nations League group stages and did so using a 3-5-2 system, earning a deserved win after a difficult period following their Euro 2020 triumph.
Victory over the Three Lions gives Italy an outside chance of still making the Nations League finals in 2023 as they face group leaders Hungary in the final matchday, with a win enough to see them move into top spot.
Speaking to media ahead of the vital clash, Jorginho was very confident about his national team’s new approach: “After everything that happened, it was a struggle, but the game against England really fired us up and gave us more motivation. I try to learn from past mistakes and disappointment, which is also what the coach is passing on to the players he calls up.
“I felt something different in that game and I think the reconstruction process has already begun. Now we’ve got to continue along this path,” and added, discussing the tactical tweaks: “It’s good to have an alternative that we can change to during the game or during a tournament.
“Some of our players have 4-3-3 at club level, others with three defenders, so I think this system is certainly doable. It’s interesting for the present and the future, I got along well with it.”
The Chelsea midfielder explained that victory over England has been crucial for the squad heading into the final matchday: “We have this opportunity to win the group and it’s up to us to take it.
“Hungary have proved themselves to be tough opponents and they’ll have passionate support from the crowd tomorrow.”
Pierre-Emerick discusses Thomas Tuchel sacking & opens up on early career struggles
Forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has admitted it was ‘sad’ to see Thomas Tuchel sacked by Chelsea.
Aubameyang left Barcelona after only signing in January of this year to return to the Premier League with Chelsea, having left Arsenal at the beginning of the year following disciplinary issues.
The move saw him reunite with Tuchel, who he thrived under while the pair worked together at Borussia Dortmund.
However, Tuchel was sacked in September, just weeks after the transfer window had shut and the 33-year-old had sealed his transfer to Stamford Bridge.
Speaking to Chelsea’s official YouTube channel, Aubameyang opened up: “It’s obviously sad when someone leaves the club and obviously, I only saw him for a few days. But this is football and when you play football you have to adapt quickly and in some moments in the season, this can happen.
“I think he [Tuchel] was a bit frustrated and sad. Obviously, I will try to talk to him as soon as possible,” he added, before giving his verdict on Tuchel’s replacement Graham Potter:
“I think he [Potter] is a really positive person and a great character. We will try to learn with him and to win as soon as possible. I think his ideas are very clear so I think it’s going to be easy. It takes time to adapt to each other but I think it’s going to be ok.”
Aubameyang also touched on the earlier years of his career during the interview and confessed how he had been through a lot of ‘bad moments’ unrelated to injuries: “I was okay but at the beginning of my career everyone was talking about me as a sprinter only.
“This hurts sometimes because you know where you’ve come from, you know you went through a lot of stuff and you always try your best and some people, even from your club say you’re not good at playing football.”
He praised current Paris Saint-Germain manager Christophe Galtier for lighting a fire beneath him during their time together at St-Etienne, stating: “When I arrived in Saint-Etienne, I was happy because Christophe Galtier gave me confidence and it changed everything in my career. This is where I started scoring goals.”
Gareth Taylor insists Man City’s tough WSL start has still offered ‘something to build on’
Gareth Taylor has insisted Manchester City’s performances have provided ‘something to build on’ despite suffering a pair of defeats in their opening two fixtures of the 2022/23 WSL campaign.
City have gone through a summer of high squad turnover, with seven new arrivals and eight permanent exits, and have begun the new season with a surprise 4-3 loss to Aston Villa and a 2-0 defeat to Chelsea.
“It’s not great but it is what it is,” said Taylor. “We’ve had two away games, two tough away games. We’ve gone to Villa who are a new team and have done tremendously well on the day, and coming here was always going to be difficult.
“They don’t really give much away, Chelsea – they lost last week, something was going to give today but I think the reaction and the levels that we showed today was really impressive and gives us something to build on.”
City endured a similarly tough start to last season after contending with an injury crisis, but made up ground with a stunning second half of the campaign to secure a Champions League spot at the expense of rivals Manchester United.
Taylor admitted the lack of margin for error due to the size of the WSL – with just 12 teams and 22 games – makes early slip ups even more costly.
“That’s the nature of the league,” the City boss added. “I’ve always been negative about that. 22 games is nothing. It is what it is. Unless teams keep beating each other, you can probably get away with maybe four defeats in a season and still win the league.
“We can’t do much about that; the rules are the rules, the teams are the teams. It wasn’t hard last season when we won 13 on the bounce – it was actually a lot easier when we had all of our players fit.
“Our situation now is slightly different to what we had last season – it’s not injuries, it’s just a new team and new players to bed in. These will be really good players and this will be a really good team. Unfortunately at the moment we’ve had a couple of defeats which are tough to take but I think there were really positive signs there today.”
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