Losing to Leeds put Thomas Tuchel in a tailspin – Graham Potter can’t afford same fate

Hakim Ziyech and Reece James – Losing to Leeds put Thomas Tuchel in a tailspin – Graham Potter can’t afford same fate – Catherine Ivill/GETTY

Graham Potter has admitted his job is on the line ahead of the first of what could prove to be two make-or-break games for his career as Chelsea’s head coach.

Chelsea play twice at Stamford Bridge in four days, against Leeds United in the Premier League and Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League, with co-controlling owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali due to be in attendance for both games.

Potter has received the backing of the Chelsea board through a run of just two wins in 15 games, but that faith will be severely tested by any setbacks in the next two games.

“When you are a head coach and you start on this journey you say ‘well if the results aren’t good enough then you know your job is in peril’. That’s the life we lead,” said Potter.

“I just have to accept that and do my best and try to improve the situation we are in until there is a point where we are not able to go forward. But that hasn’t been the case and we keep fighting.”

Potter wasn’t looking past the Leeds game or looking for excuses on Friday, but he has not been helped by the fact he will be without Thiago Silva and Mason Mount, while Reece James is rated as a major doubt.

“My position is that I need to focus on the next game,” said Potter. “Whatever the discussions are, that’s not for me. There is support (from the owners) and I’ve spoken to them, but I’m not going to hide behind that because the results have not been good enough and I’m responsible for that.”

It was the 3-0 reverse at Leeds last August that set Thomas Tuchel on course for the Chelsea exit and another defeat to the Yorkshire club would likely put Potter on a similar path.

Tuchel managed four more games after the Leeds loss, but, having not taken kindly to his team selection and tactics being questioned, the German’s fate was pretty much sealed in the days after Chelsea returned from Elland Road.

It is questionable whether or not Chelsea could allow Potter to manage even one more game against Dortmund were Leeds to complete a League double over the Blues. Given what the atmosphere towards him would be like from the majority of fans, it would almost seem cruel.

A defeat or even a failure to win would make it difficult for Boehly and Eghbali to see through their plan of giving Potter the rest of the season and ideally next season too before making a judgement on him.

Two wins against Leeds and Dortmund would keep the season alive and at least afford Potter more time to show that he can put up a fight to save his job and prove the growing number of doubters wrong.

One suspects that if Saturday is to become the beginning of the end that Potter will have more regrets than Tuchel about his time in charge – the biggest of which might be leaving Brighton to take the job in the first place, although he still publicly insists he was handed a wonderful opportunity.

Potter had previously turned down the opportunity to manage Tottenham Hotspur over concerns surrounding the running of the club’s football operation and yet he agreed to become the first managerial appointment of the Boehly-Eghbali era, where everybody is learning on the job.

There has been no lack of ambition and good intentions, but mistakes have been made. Collaboration was the watchword when Potter took over and yet sharing so many ideas appears to have left heads scrambled at Stamford Bridge.

If there is one thing Potter must take from the last couple of months, whether he remains at Chelsea or prepares for his next challenge, it is to learn how to say no. No to yet another new winger, no to being left with an oversized squad and no to the medical staff who suggest he rest four first-team players and once.

Would it have been a risk to play both James and Silva against Southampton? Probably. But Silva is now out of the Leeds game in any case and could be missing for up to six weeks after damaging ligaments in his knee after Harry Kane landed on him during the Tottenham game and James is doubtful with a tight hamstring. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

For all he could complain he has too many players to train each day, Potter might have relegated some to the Under-23s or set up separate sessions for those deemed to have no long-term future at Chelsea. He presumably did not have to keep playing Hakim Ziyech, following his aborted move to Paris Saint-Germain, for instance.

One can only hope that Potter does not make any compromises on Saturday or make too many allowances for the Dortmund game around the corner. If he gets it wrong, then Leeds could well mark the beginning of the end for a second Chelsea manager this season.

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