By Andrew Warshaw
April 3 – The number of Premier League managers who lost their jobs in the same season stretched to a record 12 on Sunday after Chelsea parted company with Graham Potter and Leicester off-loaded Brendan Rodgers.
Whilst Rodgers’ departure from relegation-threatened Leicester after four generally successful years in the job was greeted with slight surprise given a dramatic fall from grace despite undoubted coaching ability, the reaction paled into insignificance compared with the brutal dismissal of Potter who lasted less than seven months.
A week ago Tottenham Hotspur’s plight was splashed all over the back pages of Britain’s newspapers with Antonio Conte’s controversial departure prompting all manner of headlines about the north London club being in crisis.
But nothing comes to close to Chelsea’s treatment of Potter, handed a five-year contract to build for the future yet shown the door after just 31 games.
Just under a year ago an American consortium led by Todd Boehly bought the club from Roman Abramovich for eye-watering £4.25 billion, the biggest takeover of any sports club in history. In the last two transfer windows, they have spent a staggering half a billion pounds on new players, much of it a scattergun approach.
Yet after 100 days under the new ownership, Thomas Tuchel, who had won the Champions League with Chelsea, was sacked and now his replacement has gone the same way after the briefest of managerial nightmares.
You couldn’t make it up – unless you were talking about Chelsea, a club notorious for sacking managers under the long reign of Abramovich and now even more starkly under Boehly’s tenure.
In a way we shouldn’t be too surprised. This is a club with a win-at-all-costs mentality who took a gamble by appointing a project manager.
It was hardly the ideal fit for a club that doesn’t know the meaning of patience and time as Potter failed to get the best out of an expensively assembled squad.
His departure was announced following a 2-0 home defeat to Aston Villa at the weekend that left Chelsea in 11th place in the Premier League, their chance of qualifying for next season’s Champions League all but extinguished unless they win this season’s competition. They face holders Real Madrid in the quarterfinals this month.
“We have the highest degree of respect for Graham as a coach and as a person,” Chelsea co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali said in a statement. “He has always conducted himself with professionalism and integrity and we are all disappointed in this outcome.”
Bruno Saltor, a member of Potter’s coaching staff, will take charge of Chelsea on an interim basis and there was no immediate timescale on a new full-time appointment though former Bayern Munich boss Julian Nagelsmann, ironically linked with Tottenham as Conte’s replacement, has emerged as the early favourite.
At 35, Nagelsmann is the most sought-after and talented young manager in Europe. Indeed there is already some speculation that Chelsea acted when they did so as to not to miss out on their favoured candidate.
Neutral observers will feel sorry for Potter, who made his managerial name in Sweden and then with Brighton but has little experience with dealing with such a vast squad of established internationals. The spending spree overseen by Boehly was unprecedented, leaving Potter with too many egos to handle, all of them hoping to be first-team regulars.
But with a seemingly bottomless pit of money goes an expectation of instant success. This has long been Chelsea’s philosophy. They were never going to stand by their man and ride the storm if things didn’t immediately go according to plan. A majority of their supporters never embraced having an up-and-coming manager rather than another elite name.
Potter and Chelsea was always a risk and now the club are looking, incredibly, for their third manager of the season. And, even more tellingly, their 14th in 20 years.
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