With just one point from their easiest two games on paper, the Blues entered the double-header against Milan with the threat of a Champions League group stage exit for just the second time in their nineteen seasons in the competition.
Such an eventually would not have seen Potter under pressure but, with such lofty ambitions at Stamford Bridge, the new manager would have known victory over the Scudetto winners was a must. And his players responded.
Chelsea produced their best performance of the season to wipe the floor with Milan, thanks to goals from Wesley Fofana, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and Reece James.
James, alongside defensive partner Thiago Silva, were standout performers. The 22-year-old has been Chelsea’s best player this season, after renewing his contract on a new six-year deal worth £250,000-a-week. He is a matchwinner at both ends of the pitch and will undoubtedly prove a key player for England at the upcoming World Cup in Qatar.
Yet, Potter is right that James needs his teammates around him to achieve anything in this sport.
“The players have responded well,” Potter added. “I’ve been impressed with how open, honest, and responsible they are. I think they knew the level had dropped a little bit, and when you do that at this level, you can be punished. So it’s a credit to the players that they’ve tried to take on the things we’ve spoken about, and it’s just the start for us today.
“I’m part of the team, I guess, but it’s the players that go out there, the players that do it. My job is just to remind them they can play at the level they showed today. That should be the minimum for us today.”
Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell have vastly improved under Potter having struggled in the early weeks of the season, while Aubameyang, who scored his second goal in as many games, is showing signs of clicking with his new team-mates.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek again looks capable of delivering in Chelsea’s midfielder, helping to run a match against the seven-time European Cup winners, and Trevoh Chalobah followed Conor Gallagher’s lead by making a brilliant impact from the bench, slowing down Milan’s star player Rafael Leao in his one-on-one battles.
There is even a renewed fight for the starting spot between the sticks as Kepa Arrizabalaga looks capable of unseating Edouard Mendy as first-choice goalkeeper.
The whole narrative around Chelsea has quickly shifted to a positive one, but there will be dips around the corner. An injury to Fofana, who left the stadium in a knee brace, is an immediate one.
Ultimately, as well as adapting to each other, these players continue to adapt to their manager. Potter has constantly shifted formation from match to match, half to half and sometimes multiple times throughout games.
He is still getting to grips with who can do which jobs in his squad as he juggled a busy five weeks before the World Cup in November, and last night was also a broader sign that Chelsea are on the right path again.