Despite an impressive start to life under their new boss, Chelsea succumbed to their first defeat of the Graham Potter era in embarrassing fashion at the hands of his former club Brighton & Hove Albion at the weekend.
The Englishman got it horribly wrong tactically by deploying Raheem Sterling and Christian Pulisic as wing-backs in a back three setup, a decision he later admitted made him look “a bit of a fool” as the Seagulls ran out 4-1 winners at full-time, 3-0 up at the break.
The 47-year-old boss explained his reasoning for selecting the pair out of position, saying:
“The responsibility for those two wasn’t to defend against their wing-backs,” an incredibly naïve move considering he installed the attacking style in Sussex that his replacement Roberto De Zerbi has continued to implement.
A decision that BBC presenter and ex-striker Gary Lineker pinpointed as the reason for the defeat, tweeting: “
Potter’s system of a back 3 and wingers at wingback, which he changed very quickly from in Chelsea’s previous league games, has failed miserably in the first half at Brighton.”
Wednesday’s Champions League win against Dinamo Zagreb saw Potter revert to a back four, the first time he’d deployed that setup in six games, it was a timely change as well with the Blue’s reliance on Reece James becoming stark with the right-sided dynamo still out injured and no suitable alternative to play that right wing-back role.
Stalwart Cesar Azpilicueta was deployed at right-back with Trevoh Chalobah partnering the returning Kalidou Koulibaly with Sofascore’s highest-rated player of the night Ben Chilwell playing at left-back, the setup allowed for Jorginho to drop off between the lines to pick up the ball from Edouard Mendy and the defence, a role he famously revels in.
Expect to see the backline remain the same barring the fitness of Chilwell who was helped off at full-time with an injury and no update yet on the severity, this just nails home the fact that the back three setup isn’t a viable option with the Englishman featuring eight times this season in that role.
Potter was also forced to think on his feet against Manchester United when Erik Ten Hag’s side overrun the Blues midfield due to the back three formation leaving the Italian and Ruben Loftus-Cheek exposed in centre-midfield against the Red Devils’ three-man alternative, this forced the Englishman into hooking off Marc Cucurella to bring Mateo Kovacic into midfield to regain control of the game.
A very similar situation could occur against the Gunners if the team selection leaves the West Londoners out-numbered in the middle of the park, Mikel Arteta will set his side up with a three-man midfield, just as he has done all season, with the expected trio of Martin Odegaard, Thomas Partey and Granit Xhaka all dangerous technicians, this will leave Chelsea vulnerable if the 47-year-old doesn’t opt for a 4-3-3 or 4-3-1-2 formation deployed last night.
Since he arrived in the top flight with the Seagulls, Potter has earned himself a reputation as one of the best tacticians in the country, it would be very surprising to see him ignore the signs from his previous outings and opt not to adopt the back four against the table toppers.