With one swift, decisive move, the Todd Boehly era truly begins in West London. As Potter takes the reins at Stamford Bridge, here’s what soccer fans need to know.
Thomas Tuchel led Chelsea Football Club to a UEFA Champions League crown in May 2021 just four months into his tenure as manager. A year and a half later, the German gaffer found himself unemployed following a lackluster start to the Blues’ Premier League and European campaigns.
In 589 days and 100 matches at the wheel, Tuchel led Chelsea to 60 victories, but a recent string of embarrassing defeats — 3-0 to Leeds, 2-1 against Southampton, and 1-0 to Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League — that led to new owner Todd Boehly’s decision to “part company.”
Within 24 hours, Boehly had already identified his successor, and his decision furthermore proves a commitment to reverting Chelsea back to the dominant squad fans and critics are familiar with: Brighton and Hove Albion’s Graham Potter.
At only six matches into his fourth Premier League campaign with Brighton, Potter guided the Seagulls to four wins, one loss, and one draw, good for fourth in the table and just two points back of first-place Arsenal, with his most notable victory came against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Aug. 7. But with the likes of Mauricio Pochettino and Zinedine Zidane itching to get back to the sidelines, what could Boehly want with a gentleman whose only previous coaching stints only include a Swedish professional club and Swansea City?
In short, Potter’s appointment is Boehly’s way of properly ridding himself of the last remnants of the Roman Abramovich era while simultaneously handing an up-and-comer his first ticket to the sport’s elite tier.
Boehly’s investor group purchased Chelsea for £4.25 billion ($5.4 billion) in May when the Kremlin-linked Abramovich was compelled to sell, then immediately went into a summer shopping spree of a record £270 million ($310 million) to beef up the squad. Manchester City star Raheem Sterling led a string of smashing signings, including former Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang‘s return to London after a short stint with Barcelona and the arrival of Brighton’s own Marc Cucurella at Stamford Bridge despite a hot Man City pursuit.
Speculation regarding the full story behind Tuchel’s sacking will undoubtedly linger on for months, but Boehly’s assertiveness as owner is what’s currently driving the discourse. Though he hasn’t been with the club for long, the American businessman and Eldridge Industries co-founder understands the prestige of managing a storied club — no matter what he ultimately decided concerning his gaffer, he needed to do it decisively. It ultimately didn’t matter how quickly Tuchel steered the Blues to Champions League glory; if similar success couldn’t be repeated and the Premier League crown remained out of reach, what must be done eventually may as well be done immediately.
And with one swift, unequivocal move, the Todd Boehly era truly begins in West London.
Of course, there’s an unspoken yet obvious concern for Graham Potter. Given Chelsea’s status as one of English football’s Big Six, all eyes will be fixed on his every move like never before. With that in mind, how will his squad’s performance determine his outlook on, say, squad rotation during the fixture-packed holiday season, or his strategic approach to the January transfer window?
Notably, a rumored friction point between Boehly and Tuchel was the former’s desire to sign Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United. Albeit certainly no longer the best athlete in football, the legendary Portuguese forward’s desire to play in the Champions League and make a plausible run at one or two domestic trophies were among several reasons why he was ready to leave the Red Devils after a seemingly warm reunion earlier this year. The summer window has since closed and Ronaldo is still at Old Trafford, but there’s still potential in January 2023 to make Boehly’s wish come true.
Regardless of whether or not such a deal will be (or even could be) consummated, Todd Boehly will spare little expense in taking Chelsea back to the top. As a result, the manner in which Potter navigates key club decisions will be subject to micro-level scrutiny — and they’ll reflect not only on himself, but the man who chose him as his first major hire.
With millions eagerly watching, Graham Potter is scheduled to manage his first match for the Blues on Saturday, Sept. 10 against neighborhood rivals Fulham. Whatever the result reveals, however, one thing remains certain: if the return on investment doesn’t reveal itself quickly enough, Chelsea might be looking for another leader 12 months from now.