Mr Potter looked into his spellbook earlier this week when Chelsea were in Salzburg, and pulled out a formation that could be best described as a 3-1-2-1-3 — a compact back three, a narrow midfield diamond, and a wide front three with the nominal wing-backs really more like wide forwards. It generated plenty of attacking chances (after the first 20 very shaky minutes) but left acres of spaces on both flanks. Salzburg failed to exploit those spaces.
Brighton & Hove Albion did not.
Potter’s setup was eviscerated repeatedly and without mercy, his former charges, urged on by the bloodthirsty home crowd, taking great pleasure in trouncing the overmatched back three.
Two of Brighton’s four goals may have been own goals technically, but their 2-0 lead inside of 15 minutes and 3-0 half-time lead was nothing less than what their play had merited. They had outplayed, outworked, and out-tactic-ed Chelsea, and it was not close. Chelsea had chances, sure, but our finishing was about as clinical as it’s been for the past few years, and that’s not something to inspire confidence if our gameplan is to win by the odd goal in nine.
Even Constant Positivity Potter had to admit that he might have left the team just a tad bit too open with his tinkering. You know, just a little bit more than a tiny bit.
“We had some opportunities ourselves, and the scoreline makes it feel a little bit worse that it was in terms of us having opportunities and touches in the box that were similar to them. They have a couple of own goals. We have a couple of chances. In the end, it felt probably a little bit too open for us, and that is my responsibility.”
Probably? Ya think!?
And no, the scoreline doesn’t make it feel “a little bit” worse. It makes it feel a lot bit worse. Potter really needs to get up to Chelsea standards in terms of the expectation of winning, and do so quickly.
Without the defense and the goalkeeper performing miracles, for once, Chelsea shipped four and unlike in recent lopsided defeats, this one wasn’t necessarily because of a lack of effort or execution from the team.
Potter’s half-time shift to a back-four acknowledged this without him having to say anything, but it was already too little, too late by then. And as much as injuries and fixture congestion can play a role, it were the same ten non-goalkeepers out there at the start of each half. (Kepa came off with an injury to the “bottom of his foot”.)
“We’ve had a lot of games in October and an incredible schedule. So for different reasons, we’ve lost key players in terms of Reece, Koulibaly, Fofana and Kanté. So there is a constant challenge in how to set up. We tried today, and again, it can be tactical, or it can be the intensity, and the opponent do what they do better. I have to analyse the game and look at how I can improve.”
“[If] you lose, you have to look at it, and if you’ve made a mistake or got things wrong, you have to analyse it and do better. That is part of our job, part of the process, and if we’ve got that wrong, I have to take responsibility and do better. I’d rather look at it from that perspective. [...] I understand that whenever you do something, and it doesn’t work, you look a bit of a fool. That is how it is. I have to accept that, deal with that, do better, and I’ll learn. That’s the process.”
-Graham Potter; source: Football.London
Sure, it’s a long-term project, and Potter’s (probably) here for that long-term. It’s important not to lose perspective of that process on days like this, hard as that may be.
But you now, this was not an improvement on anything.