Graham Potter has been at Chelsea for more than four months but is still struggling to figure out what his best team actually is. That is increasingly.
The basic numbers reveal that in 15 Premier League games in charge of the Blues, Potter has made 64 changes to his starting XI – an average of just over four changes from each game to the next.
The sheer number of players at his disposal, which has only grown in recent weeks, is an obvious reason for that. Chelsea brought in eight new faces in the summer at vast expense – a record spend for any club in a single transfer window – with those players still settling themselves by the time Thomas Tuchel was sacked and Potter was appointed to take over.
Seven more new arrivals in January, the last of which arrived less than 72 hours before Friday’s lacklustre and disjointed 0-0 draw with Fulham, and Potter has had to try and gel 15 players new this season under huge pressure to achieve instant success given the standards of the last 20 years.
In summer, Chelsea will sign Christopher Nkunku, have Malo Gusto come in after initially being loaned back to Lyon, are likely to recruit elsewhere and are expected to have at least a few significant departures, which will only continue the ongoing upheaval.
Potter conceded the lack of familiarity in his post-match assessment of the Fulham draw, highlighting the exact opposite in their west London neighbours.
“[Fulham] have been together a while. We’re a different stage of that – players coming back from injury and new players. We needed time to settle everything down. We were missing the connection, fluidity and confidence that comes from knowing each other,” he told BBC Sport.
“We have to gel and become a really good team. That’s where the work is. When players have been injured, they have not been on the training pitch. We have new players with us. It’s about getting ideas across and working with the group.
“New players are adapting to a new country and a new league. It’s not straightforward. When the price tag is what it is questions will be asked, it’s the nature of the business.”
Time is going to be critical for Potter and Chelsea in that endeavour and it was clear from seeing them against Fulham, seeing the substitutions that were made, what needs to happen.
“The front line needs to improve, the midfield needs to improve, so even though they’ve spent £600m I looked at every department I thought they need to get a lot better,” Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville commented after the game. “I wasn’t that impressed. It’s going to take a lot of time for players to settle in. It’s easy to see why as it’s so difficult to put a team together.”
Patience was something that former Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich infamously lacked. But new chairman Todd Boehly appointed Potter and has been the one responsible for overseeing the enormous personnel changes within the squad in such a short space of time. He has to back his man.
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