Chelsea’s board fear it will be difficult to continue backing Graham Potter if the team lose to Leeds and Borussia Dortmund in the next two games.
Potter has not lost the support of the owners, Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital, and there is a desire, particularly on Boehly’s part, for the 47-year-old to turn the situation around.
But the former Brighton manager is under major pressure after a dreadful run and is aware he requires improvement in results and performances in Saturday’s Premier League home game against Leeds and Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 second leg at Stamford Bridge against Dortmund, who are 1-0 up.
Chelsea are 10th in the league after two wins in 15 games and closer in points to the bottom three than the top four. The owners have placed a lot of faith in Potter since hiring him as Thomas Tuchel’s replacement in September and admire his calm demeanour and coaching ability.
However Chelsea spent heavily in the past two transfer windows and have seen little reward. Their season would be all but over if they lost to Dortmund and the situation is complicated by a majority of fans having turned against Potter, who could face a hostile reaction from the crowd if his team are beaten by Leeds.
Potter admitted on Friday is struggling to get his ideas across to his players. “When you’ve had the results we have had clearly it is not perfect, otherwise you would have better results,” he said. “Clearly it is a process of how to get our message across better. How can we structure things in a way to help the players because that is what we are here for.
“When results aren’t good, from my point of view you have to accept that we haven’t done it well enough. That’s the reality we are in and I am sure the players will take responsibility and admit they can do better as well.”
Potter said he retained the support of the dressing room. But it is a bad moment for him to be without Thiago Silva’s leadership in defence – the Brazilian is out for six weeks with a knee injury – and Mason Mount has also joined an injury list that features César Azpilicueta, Édouard Mendy, N’Golo Kanté and Christian Pulisic. Reece James is a doubt with a tight hamstring.
Potter insisted Chelsea had enough character to cope without Silva, even though they struggled when the 38-year-old and James were rested during last month’s 1-0 home defeat by Southampton. “There’s no doubt there’s people in the squad who can step forward and add more in terms of performance on the pitch, leadership, all those things,” Potter said. “Just like I can.”
The atmosphere is likely to be tense on Saturday, with home fans certain to demand that Potter be fired if Chelsea lose. However, it would be almost impossible to find a permanent replacement before the Dortmund match. Potter knows he needs to repay the board’s faith.
“There is support and of course I’ve spoken to them,” he said. “But I’m not going to hide behind that. The results haven’t been good enough and I’m responsible for that. When you’re a coach, if the results aren’t good you accept the criticism and noise that comes with it. My job is to stay with the team, try to prepare the team as well as I can, and win the game tomorrow.”