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Potter’s tactical diversity breathes new life into Chelsea’s season

It should be much more difficult than that. Graham Potter even admitted that when he spoke about how difficult the Champions League season would be after the 1-1 draw against Salzburg. It’s actually only been a week since Chelsea were bottom of the table.

How much has changed. They’re at the top now, having beaten Milan in consecutive games, but that’s not all. It’s part of a longer unbeaten run for Potter since taking charge, with the most recent 2-0 win being his fourth straight win .

Given that Potter isn’t the most ebullient speaker, and not necessarily the most quotable coach, you could almost say that’s the definition of quietly doing a good job.

Chelsea’s improvement was a result of big motivational influences, bombastic decisions or big moments. It’s just progressive work on the training ground.

Potter now went into the difference in the group compared to that very first fight.

“The game against Salzburg was a difficult game for many reasons,” he said. “It wasn’t the best start in Zagreb and a lot of things changed behind the scenes, then Her Majesty dies and then we have a Champions League game and we didn’t know the players and they didn’t know us.

“It’s a process of trying to get to know them. We had a bit of time because of the international break, but we worked hard behind the scenes to emphasize the importance of the group, to emphasize the importance of the team and what we do.

“The important thing is that the quicker you get to know the players, the quicker you build trust and the better you understand them. But it’s up to the guys, the players.”

Now that this group is beginning to understand what Potter and his associates are about, it is very difficult for the opposition sides to know how to arm themselves against them.

This was perhaps the standout element of the 47-year-old’s tenure. Chelsea have a high level of tactical diversity. They play a completely different system almost every game. If that obviously reflects Potter’s quality as a pure trainer, it also speaks to subtly good general management.

Really rotating his squad, the Chelsea manager has kept the entire dressing room busy. From a dressing room policy standpoint, that was smart, especially since one of the perceptions was that a group of achievers might be willing to tackle a coach with such a resume as soon as things went wrong. Potter builds trust and gives himself the space to show his quality.

This means that there is a multiplier effect, the tactics proving effective but also feeding the good spirit and mutually reinforcing each other.

The end result is more than just clever formations or things liked by those who invest more in the technicalities of the game. It’s really good football. Chelsea’s second goal against Milan was a vision of what the side can become and an example of how Potter’s approach could always be with better attackers. That’s what he aimed for in Brighton.

Chelsea slashed Milan with an excellent maneuver, a series of skillful passes that culminated in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang putting the ball in the net. That Mason Mount set it up was all the more fitting considering how such a tactical player reveled under a highly tactical coach. It was also inevitable that such a goal would come on the right flank with Reece James causing such problems on that side. However, the reality is that almost every Chelsea player has been promoted.

The system currently means they won’t miss N’Golo Kante in the same way. Potter is able to think of several different tactical options.

Of course, there are much more difficult tests.

But for a manager without that higher profile, coming from the low base of Chelsea’s start to the season and showing such form and performance, real credit deserves. It’s quiet impressive, although the noise will only increase if this continues.

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