Graham Potter has started off on rather a frustrating result as Chelsea couldn’t kick start their Champions League campaign with a first win. Raheem Sterling’s strike wasn’t enough for the English football manager to record the first three points of his tenure with Noah Okafor playing the spoiler at Stamford Bridge.
It was a night that saw some fresh ideas and familiar issues where Chelsea having only recorded one point from their opening two European games can colour the takeaways from the match. As Potter admitted following the game: “We can’t lie, it’s not the position we want to be in, but we have to respond. It’s as simple as that. It’s going to be a tough group, I think, but there is enough quality in the team and squad that we can respond, and we have to look forward to those two games.”
The interruption of the international break notwithstanding, Potter will now have time to further embed his tactics in the squad before taking on Crystal Palace on October. While the situation surrounding the postponement of Chelsea vs Liverpool has not been ideal, it gives a brief period where Potter can simply focus on development rather than an opponent.
It’s almost impossible to ignore the wider context of London activity in which the game took place. The death of Queen Elizabeth II has seen the two Chelsea matches on either side of Wednesday evening’s match postponed and thus, the occasion saw the club’s chance to pay tribute to the monarch.
Stamford Bridge saw two Chelsea Pensioners lay wreaths, while players wore black armbands and a minute of silence took place ahead of kick-off, with UEFA’s pre-match anthem and center-circle flag presentation did not take place.
Red Bull Salzburg paid their own respects by first walking from Earls Court to the ground in silence ahead of the match and covered club colours with a black banner while the pre-match activities were taking place.
A high-profile crowd
John Terry, Gareth Southgate and Patrick Vieira were all in attendance for Chelsea’s Champions League clash albeit for very different reasons. Terry appeared to return to the location of so many of his own stunning performances to enjoy the evening, though he does have a role with the club’s academy.
Patrick Vieira will have no doubt been on a scouting trip, judging what changes Potter has made to the Blues already, with the outing against Salzburg the only opportunity to take in what a Chelsea side led by the 47-year-old looks like ahead of October’s match against the Eagles.
Chelsea have no more games ahead of the international break, and the World Cup is growing ever closer so there are a few opportunities for the club’s England stars to impress Southgate. Reece James, Raheem Sterling and Mason Mount started the game, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Conor Gallagher made it off the bench. It will have been a frustrating evening for Ben Chilwell, who did not get on the pitch and has struggled to earn as much playing time as he would like. The Three Lions boss’ presence in west London will have only reinforced, the difficulty Chilwell could have getting in the team if Potter sticks with this system. With a shortage of left wing-backs, perhaps Potter’s use of Sterling could serve as inspiration.
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Applause for Thomas Tuchel
The Champions League clash was also the first opportunity for Chelsea supporters to show their feeling toward Thomas Tuchel who the club parted with a week ago on Wednesday. While plans to display Tuchel’s banner that declares him ‘Deutscher Maestro’ were scrapped by We are the Shed, they still wanted to make their feelings clear.
Ahead of the game, they said: “Tonight will be our first game since Thomas Tuchel got sacked. We will not be using the crowd surfer out of respect to The Queen’s passing/pre-match plans. Instead, we’re encouraging people to stand & applaud on the 21st min to say ‘thank you’ (the year he won us the CL).”
Come that point, the applause appeared around Stamford Bridge and was backed up with a rendition of ‘We’ve got Super Tommy Tuchel’. A nice touch.
Graham Potter differences
It’s already very clear that Potter will cut a very different figure to what Chelsea may have grown accustomed to on the touchline under Tuchel. There perhaps has not been enough time for the Blues’ new head coach to implement his style on the squad, but there was some obvious differences in the dugout.
When Potter emerged from the tunnel for the game, he provided and received applause from the crowd in acknowledgment of his first outing in charge of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. It was quickly obvious that the former Brighton boss would provide a more understated presence.
Potter would sway and react to Chelsea’s chances from his technical areas and stretched as far as another applause when Sterling opened the scoring in the second half, and overall was an understated presence on the sideline. He did not berate officials or fly down the throats of his players but could be seen passing on instructions to the likes of Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic when the opportunity arose.