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RIATH AL-SAMARRAI: Alarm bells are ringing at Chelsea but Graham Potter thrives under pressure

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RIATH AL-SAMARRAI: Alarm bells are ringing at Chelsea but Graham Potter thrives under pressure

Graham Potter has never been a man for the liberal use of soundbites but he has been good at Brighton.

It’s probably one of the best for what it’s like for a manager trying to cure a club’s form amid relentless fixtures and mounting pressure.

‘It’s like fixing an airplane in mid-air,’ he said. Never a prolific sharer of golden lines, Potter, but that’s decent.

Chelsea have won once in eight games and sit 10th in the table under Graham Potter

Chelsea have won once in eight games and sit 10th in the table under Graham Potter

Alarm bells are ringing at a club that has traditionally been trigger happy with managers

Alarm bells are ringing at a club that has traditionally been trigger happy with managers

It also feels increasingly relevant, with Chelsea winning once in eight and sitting 10th in the table.

That’s two below the club he left and it’s the kind of alarm that has a tendency to ring loudly at Stamford Bridge.

That’s why you have to wonder about the habits and methods: the habits and methods of a club that under Roman Abramovich tends to dump the pilots when they hit any lingering trouble, and really behaves in character when Todd Boehly did the same to Thomas Tuchel . They speak many languages ​​at Chelsea but the reasons rarely seem to translate.

And that is a shame and a concern, if we go back to the habits and ways of the person concerned. All managers talk about projects, usually because it sounds good and serves an interest up to a point – if you make it about results, you will always be a hostage.

Except Potter has a track record of taking the long way to great places. His career is a metaphor for his style – no free passes, no handouts, no trading in the reputation of being a top player.

Hard yards is a description coined for a manager who uprooted his family to go to a Swedish outpost, followed by time at the muddier end of the grass roots on the university circuit.

I remember going to him in Swansea to talk about his time at Ostersunds, and we know by now the success that got his name there. Fourth division to top flight, a win against Arsenal.

That was revisited when he went to Swansea and Brighton and then Chelsea, with speculation that he was an England manager in waiting. But I remember that interview for the visceral images of his stories, about training sessions in February when it reached minus 20.

The problem with that, he explained, was that the balls froze at minus 18. ‘Like heading canon balls,’ he said. They had to replace them every 20 minutes, which wasn’t an option for the players’ eyelashes – they kept snapping off.

The point is, he knows a challenge and he always thrives. He knows a challenge at Swansea, where his best players are regularly sold from under him (16 in the two windows before our chat, against five new signings, leaving one centre-half) and he rebuilt a relegated, devastated team to play stylish football, best shown when they led Manchester City 2-0 in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup (Pep Guardiola gave him high praise about there and elsewhere).

He knows a challenge at Brighton, where they thrashed him 14 months ago for a goalless draw at Leeds. They finished that season in their highest position in the top-flight.

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Potter loves a challenger and has never left a club worse than when he first joined

Potter loves a challenger and has never left a club worse than when he first joined

People in Brighton are talking about a manager who never calls out his players in public, although some may have warranted it. A manager who doesn’t spend much time reading and listening to criticism in the media, but knows when it happens.

A manager who didn’t want to use a more pragmatic style of football for seven or eight games after the lockdown but found a way to make it work, and found a way back to the approach he liked and thrived. It brought him to Chelsea.

And now he is in the mud again. The results have a bit of a stink about them, and most astute observers will know that there are only so many fights one can do so much damage to the main players.

But this is Chelsea and so there has to be concern for whoever is in control when the altitude drops and the dials vibrate. At this point you have to say that Potter leaves a club in a better state than he found it.

The question is whether Stamford Bridge will be suitable for such rational talks.

Joe Marler got two weeks for telling Jake Heenan that his mother was a ‘f***ing whore’. In the fallout, which centered on whether the ban was too lenient or too harsh, he was right about one thing – he wasn’t the first to insult a mother on the sports field. He was not the last either.

It’s puerile, it’s awful, and it has the desired effect of upsetting an opponent, even for the unexpected fact that Heenan’s mother is sick and in the hospital.

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From afar, Marler has always struck me as an entertaining person and she also spoke eloquently and courageously about her mental health. But in this case, instinct is on the side of her husband – he’s a moron and it’s not funny.

Joe Marler was given a two-week ban for comments made to Jake Heenan

Joe Marler was given a two-week ban for comments made to Jake Heenan

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al Nassr debut has been delayed due to his lengthy ban for slapping a phone out of a fan’s hand when he was a Manchester United player.

He earns £3million a week but he has the look and feel of a walking punchline these days.

Cristiano Ronaldo's debut for Saudi side Al Nassr has been delayed by a two-match ban

Cristiano Ronaldo’s debut for Saudi side Al Nassr has been delayed by a two-match ban