When play was stopped for VAR to review the suspected handball by Kai Havertz in the penalty area, the cameras panned to Graham Potter in the dugout, also being shown a replay of the incident. As it dawned on him that it was a stonewall penalty, his emotion chip kicked into overdrive with a resigned utterance. “Fuck me,” said the Chelsea head coach, and not in a good way.
And indeed, we were fucked.
Potter reacts to the replay of Havertz's handball. 'Fuck me,' indeed. pic.twitter.com/edawu0gpWQ— amadí (@amadoit__) January 8, 2023
Havertz’s silly handball reminded me of a similar handball by Salomon Kalou late on in a 1-1 draw against Valencia back in early 2011-12. Many have compared Potter to Chelsea’s equally floundering head coach at that time, André Villas-Boas. AVB’s worst run of results would be 2 wins in 9 in all competitions (with 5 draws and 2 defeats) just before his sacking. Potter’s now also at 2 wins in 9 in all competitions, though with 6 defeats.
A Chelsea line up with Mount, Havertz, Ziyech, Jorginho, Kovacic, Koulibaly, Gallagher, Chalobah and Kepa should at least be playing motivated, competitive, tactically organized football. And that is a low bar to clear, it’s not happening. I don’t want to hear about injuries.— Paul Wentworth (@paultwentworth) January 8, 2023
Things are “different” now obviously, as Potter reminded us this weekend, which makes comparisons tough. Of course, Potter’s own comparisons when bringing up the clichéd time and patience afforded to Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp in their first seasons are thus similarly inapplicable. Different teams, different situations, different managers, different CVs, different expectations.
Most importantly, their success also doesn’t guarantee our success unfortunately, it just provides a best-in-class outcome we can strive for, perhaps foolishly. Premier League football is littered with examples of that foolishness.
“We were second best to a very good side. Obviously, we’re not in a great moment ourselves [but] the first half was painful and tough for us all. The second half we had to respond and I thought there were some positives there in terms of the young players [who] gave everything and showed their quality. But in the end we’re disappointed because we’ve gone out of the competition.
“[You] can make excuses and look for reasons or you can say it’s not good enough. Both of those answers are correct so we have to keep improving and stick together because clearly we’re suffering as a football club and it’s not nice at all. That’s where we’re at at the moment. [We] can’t do anything apart from do our jobs better and work harder.
“We understand the supporters’ frustration, that is understandable and we’ll respect that. Our job is to do our jobs, to keep working, see the situation for what it is, and of course there are always other opinions, negativity and criticism because the results haven’t been positive. That’s part of the job and the challenge.
“[...] Everyone wants to try to do better. I think there is support in the dressing room, it’s just we’re going through a bad moment and sometimes when you have these moments you need somebody to blame, something to blame, and I understand where that question comes from. But at the same time, we have to stick together and keep working.”
-Graham Potter; source: Football.London
It’s a complex situation, to be sure, and context matters. But the buck must stop somewhere, and right now, no one’s taking responsibility, certainly not those whom you expect to take responsibility as part of their job definition. Our results have not been great but our football has been even worse! We’ve accepted that this is our lot in life. We are just second best after all, and we must suffer, and what could we possibly ever do to get out of it?
(And I don’t mean blindly hoping that Potter is the next coming of still-unproven Mikel Arteta, let alone the outliers in Guardiola and Klopp, who just replaced Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsène Wenger as the black swans of Premier League football management.)
How long can you trust the process if the process is not proving worthy of trust?