Graham Potter’s start to life as Chelsea manager could hardly have gone much worse.
The Blues’ 4-0 FA Cup third-round humbling at Manchester City has increased the pressure on the former Brighton boss as his troubled first few months at Stamford Bridge show no sign of improving.
Sitting 10th in the Premier League after just one win from their last eight matches and now out of both domestic cup competitions, a section of Chelsea’s travelling fans were heard singing the name of former boss Thomas Tuchel and ex-owner Roman Abramovich during their Etihad capitulation.
Former England striker Alan Shearer described the first-half display as “unacceptable”, “embarrassing” and “pathetic”, while Potter himself admitted Chelsea were “clearly suffering as a football club”.
A double from Riyad Mahrez and strikes from Julian Alvarez and Phil Foden were deserved rewards for a dominant display from Manchester City and mean questions about Potter’s future – just four months into his reign – grow louder.
‘We are clearly suffering as a club’
Chelsea sacked Tuchel, who won three trophies in 20 months at Stamford Bridge, in September when the Blues were sixth in the top flight following a summer during which they spent £255m on transfers.
But new owner Todd Boehly’s decision to bring in Potter from Brighton has yet to pay dividends, with the club now 10 points off the Champions League spots.
Chelsea did not manage a shot in a first half that Potter described as “painful”, failing to even vaguely threaten Stefan Ortega’s goal until a Mason Mount shot in the 54th minute that was deflected wide.
Potter, who can point to an injury crisis that kept nine players out of this fixture and led to teenager Bashir Humphreys making his senior debut in defence, said: “The results in a small space of time are not positive.
“You can make excuses and look for reasons or say it isn’t good enough. Both of those answers are correct.
“We have to keep improving and stick together because clearly we are suffering as a football club and it’s not nice at all. But that’s where we are at the moment.
“We can’t do anything apart from do our jobs better and work harder. You understand the supporters’ frustration, we respect that. But our job is to keep working.”
The Premier League champions raced into a 3-0 lead on Sunday, leading the travelling fans to greet the half-time whistle with a loud chorus of jeers.
And, while things marginally improved after the break, Chelsea’s owners are likely to have been left in no doubt about the anger surrounding the club.
Shearer told BBC Sport: “From a Chelsea point of view that first half was not acceptable. I don’t care how many injuries you have, you still have to put a shift in and it’s embarrassing because they haven’t.
“It was nowhere near good enough. Look at their body language, they looked like they don’t want to be there – the energy and leadership has to come from the manager.
“Going forward they were so bad you wouldn’t believe it. They have been nothing short of pathetic in forward positions.
“They have a big week coming up, they have to show more.”
‘I’d say give him time’
Former Ostersunds FK and Swansea City manager Potter led Brighton to ninth place last season, the highest top-flight finish in the club’s history.
He guided them to fourth in the table this season – after winning four, drawing one and losing one of their first six Premier League games – before joining Chelsea in October.
However a manager previously mooted as a potential future England boss is coming under increasing pressure after just eight wins from his first 18 matches at Chelsea.
“I would say to Todd Boehly, ‘give him time’,” Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola said. “I know in big clubs, results are important but I’d say give him time.
“The second half is what he is. What he’s done at Brighton is outstanding, but…we need time in the first season. I had (Lionel) Messi in Barcelona my first season so I didn’t need two seasons because Messi was there.”
Shearer agrees with Guardiola, and believes what Chelsea saw in Potter four months ago should still be valid now.
The former Newcastle striker said: “They have to stick with him, it would be crazy to do anything else. They have spent a fortune again but are lacking someone who can put the ball in the back of the net.
“They have to stick together and stick with him and give him time to turn it around. There is a reason they went for him, a reason they took all his staff with him and they have to give him time.”
‘First sounds of unrest for Potter and Boehly’ – analysis
BBC Sport’s chief football writer Phil McNulty: Chelsea manager Graham Potter and owner Todd Boehly heard the first sounds of unrest from supporters who have been fed a diet of success during the FA Cup capitulation at Manchester City.
It has certainly been an inauspicious start for the duo. The manager has a lengthy injury list but still has enough quality and experience at his disposal to do much better than suffer six losses in nine games.
Boehly, meanwhile, has certainly dipped his hand into his pocket for transfers but there appears little clear structure or strategy to his policy and Chelsea are feeling the impact of losing much experience from their boardroom as well as a manager regarded as one of the game’s elite.
Chelsea are way off the top-four places and do not merit a mention in the title race. They are in alien territory compared to recent history but this is a team so out of sorts, with a new manager and new owner struggling to create any sort of identity, that their current status is an accurate measure of exactly where they are.
‘Worst football decision of 2022’ – what you said
Tim: Chelsea have injury problems and have lacked a cutting edge for 2-3 seasons, but they are much worse under Potter. He’s just miles out of his depth, never coached international players in a team that should be winning. Sadly he needs to go.
Jonny: Am a Chelsea season ticket holder and I think this is the last straw for Potter. He is not Chelsea quality sadly. This is absolute abysmal and enough is enough.
RealAleScouser: I was thinking Potter would be sacked before Christmas, might not make the end of the season.
Stavros: Worst footballing decision of 2022 (and maybe of the century):Sacking Thomas Tuchel.
Steven: If you were to blame Potter for this mess, you would be wrong. It’s someone else’s team (which didn’t play for them either), same egos, you can’t blame Potter for that. You can’t expect instant results with these players and if you do, it’s extremely naive. He’s barely had any time. Did he even approve or want the two new signings they have?
Tim: Laughable that anyone would call for Potter’s head. Same people who moan managers don’t get enough time. These are the same players that let down Lampard and Tuchel, so why bin Potter? Give him longer than five months to straighten them out then let him build a team. The amount of pressure being put on his job from the outside is a joke!