MARTIN KEOWN: Graham Potter’s tactical flexibility makes Chelsea like a chameleon

Chelsea have a new coach in the hope that he can turn his tactical progress into trophies

MARTIN KEOWN: Graham Potter’s tactical flexibility makes Chelsea like a chameleon, leaving opponents to figure out what system they are using ahead of their clash with Wolves

  • Graham Potter is one of the most flexible coaches and his teams are fascinating
  • The changes in system during games have helped Chelsea win games so far
  • The loss of Conor Coady and Willy Boly have left Wolves vulnerable at the back
  • Diego Costa and Adama Traore must both start against Chelsea this weekend

If Graham Potter wants to understand the expectation of success at Chelsea, he need only look at Thomas Tuchel’s record in the season before his sacking.

Tuchel won the Super Cup and Club World Cup, reached the FA Cup and Carabao Cup finals, made it to the Champions League quarter finals and finished third in the Premier League. That wasn’t enough to save his job after starting this season poorly.

Now Chelsea have turned to a new coach in the hope that he can turn his tactical prowess into trophies. Potter is one of football’s most flexible coaches and I’ve always found his teams a fascinating watch.

Chelsea have a new coach in the hope that he can turn his tactical progress into trophies

Brighton last season used 13 systems across 38 Premier League matches, the most of any team by some margin. Yet the starting formation is not where it ends with Potter.

His team is like a chameleon, always changing and disguising itself from its prey. It leaves opposition coaches scrambling to work out what formation they’re facing.

We’ve already seen this changing of system in Potter’s first three matches as Chelsea manager. Against RB Salzburg, Chelsea used 3-4-2-1, with Potter demonstrating he is not afraid to make decisive decisions by dropping Wesley Fofana and Kalidou Koulibaly – £104million’s worth of center backs.

Instead he cleverly used two full backs either side of Thiago Silva in the back three which enabled them to get extra bodies down the flanks.

Former boss Thomas Tuchel was sacked by the Blues despite his success with the club

Former boss Thomas Tuchel was sacked by the Blues despite his success with the club

Against Crystal Palace, Chelsea changed to 4-2-2-2, including a midfield box – Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic as the first tier and Mason Mount and Kai Havertz the second tier.

That box was also changing shape during the game by rotating to become a diamond, with Jorginho at the base, Kovacic on the left, Mount on the right and Havertz the tip. This constant changing of shape made it difficult for Palace to take control of the game.

Against AC Milan, Chelsea changed to a more compact 3-4-3, this time bringing Fofana and Koulibaly back into the fold either side of Silva.

For their third goal, you could see how Raheem Sterling moved into a central area, taking the Milan left back with him. That created the space for Chelsea’s right wing back Reece James to drive forward and score.

Potter's tactical flexibility helped Chelsea beat Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park last weekend

Potter’s tactical flexibility helped Chelsea beat Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park last weekend

That’s three games and three different systems, each one top and tailed by a specialist goalscorer in Aubameyang at one end and a defensive expert in Silva at the other.

They are key to Potter’s continued success at Chelsea and all these adaptations demonstrate this coach’s ability to change his team shape in order to beat whatever opponent is in front of him.

Costa must start against Chelsea

Wolves lost their bite under Bruno Lage, scoring only three goals this season, the fewest of any Premier League team. Lage sent a clear message in pre-season that he wanted to abandon his use of a back three by letting Conor Coady leave for Everton.

Coady’s leadership and performance reliability has been a big loss, while Willy Boly’s sale to Nottingham Forest left them further vulnerable in the central defensive area.

In last week’s 2-0 defeat by West Ham, Ruben Neves had to be used an emergency center back and that robbed Wolves of his quality in midfield.

The departures of Conor Coady and Willy Bolly have made Wolves vulnerable in defense

The departures of Conor Coady and Willy Bolly have made Wolves vulnerable in defense

Whoever ends up being the next permanent boss will inherit a talented group with a long list of Portugal internationals who have under-performed this season.

Lage complained about his lack of strikers with Raul Jimenez and Sasa Kalajdzic injured, and the introduction of Diego Costa is essential to their short-term success.

Costa and the rapid Adama Traore had a positive impact after coming on against West Ham last week and surely the caretakers Steve Davis and James Collins will be looking to start those two against Chelsea.

All coaches take considerable time to study their opponent and Davis and Collins will have found Potter’s tactics incredibly difficult to predict when looking at his changing systems. What’s best for Wolves is to focus on themselves and find a way to get the most out of their array of talent.

Costa, who turned 34 yesterday, is not as mobile as he once was. But Wolves need him to become the headline today by turning into the hero against a club he served so well.

Diego Costa and Adama Traore made an impact last week and they must start against Chelsea

Diego Costa and Adama Traore made an impact last week and they must start against Chelsea

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