Chelsea: What problems does Graham Potter needs to address over the international break?


He may have showered his players in praise, but Graham Potter will already be aware of the problems to solve at Chelsea after their disappointing 1-1 draw against Red Bull Salzburg on Wednesday night.

The new head coach got his Blues reign off to an encouraging start, with the likes of Mason Mount and Raheem Sterling impressing in a vibrant first half-hour which should have at least brought the opening goal.

It was Sterling who eventually found it just after half time, curling home a tidy finish from inside the box to break the deadlock, only for Salzburg to capitalise on a Thiago Silva gaffe and draw level 15 minutes from time.

Graham Potter’s first game in charge of Chelsea ended in a 1-1 draw against RB Salzburg

The new Blues boss will now be aware of the problems he must solve at Stamford Bridge

The new Blues boss will now be aware of the problems he must solve at Stamford Bridge

In the end Chelsea were forced to settle for a point, leaving them rooted to the bottom of Champions League Group E – and the draw would have been an eye-opening one for Potter.

While he was quick to commend his new team for ‘giving everything’ and ‘attacking well’, the former Brighton manager will know he has a number of issues to work on during the upcoming international break.

Sportsmail has taken a closer look at Potter’s biggest areas of concern at Chelsea following his first game in charge. 

Sustain intensity 

From the very first whistle on Wednesday night Chelsea’s increased intensity and speed of play was clear for all to see.

Under the majority of Potter’s predecessors the Blues have been unproductive and dull to watch at times, sending supporters to sleep with endless sideway passes while failing to make use of superior possession.

But in the opening 30 minutes against Salzburg it was evident that Potter’s team were looking to move the ball forward quickly and aggressively, sending sharp passes into the feet of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Kai Havertz and building attacks from there.

Chelsea had more intensity and moved the ball with greater speed in the first 30 minutes

Chelsea had more intensity and moved the ball with greater speed in the first 30 minutes

Raheem Sterling was involved in some neat attacking interplay early on for Potter's side

Raheem Sterling was involved in some neat attacking interplay early on for Potter’s side

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They enjoyed complete dominance of the ball and were positive in using it. Reece James, Marc Cucurella, Sterling, and Mount enjoyed some neat interplay at times, and if not for a lack of end product – which we will come to – the hosts could have gone in at half time two or three goals to the good.

Though towards the end of that first half, Chelsea let their intensity drop as the game fizzled out into the interval, and this continued the other side of it. Sterling’s strike came early after the break yet, from that point onwards, the Blues sleepwalked into a setback and couldn’t have had many complaints when Noah Okafor levelled.

They had allowed the visitors back into the game in the second half, failing to create many clear-cut chances until it was time to roll the dice in search of a late winner.

Had Chelsea attacked with the same pace and precision as the first 30 minutes throughout, Sterling’s opener would likely have been built upon.

Instead, Salzburg pounced late on and the west London club had blown yet another lead. Potter’s predecessor Thomas Tuchel saw his side do the same against Tottenham and Southampton earlier this term, while West Ham were also denied a crucial late leveller against them thanks to a contentious VAR decision.

One of Potter’s biggest tasks will be to ensure Chelsea maintain focus and a grip on matches to avoid letting teams back in. 

But they failed to sustain it over the 90 minutes and Salzburg's equaliser was no surprise

But they failed to sustain it over the 90 minutes and Salzburg’s equaliser was no surprise

Improve finishing

The best way to kill games off, obviously, is to stick the ball in the back of the net. And for all of their ball dominance on Wednesday night it speaks volumes that Chelsea only managed to do so once in 90 minutes here.

Unfortunately this is becoming a regular theme for the Blues, who it feels score one goal for every 10 chances they have these days.

Under both Tuchel and Frank Lampard, exhilarating performances were rarely rewarded with the glut of goals they warranted, with a crop of inconsistent forwards proving far too wasteful in front of goal far too often.

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And Potter witnessed this lack of end product as early as his first game in charge. Havertz squandered a great chance to open the scoring by sending a free header into the back of a Salzburg player early on. Mount also dragged an effort from the edge of the box wide. 

Even after Okafor had brought the Austrian side level, substitutes Hakim Ziyech and Armando Broja should have done better with two glorious opportunities to win it late on.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had a chance after five minutes but his lob attempt was off target

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had a chance after five minutes but his lob attempt was off target

Potter's side have to be more clinical in front of goal if they are to go further in the competition

Potter’s side have to be more clinical in front of goal if they are to go further in the competition

The new head coach's home debut could have been a much more straightforward one

The new head coach’s home debut could have been a much more straightforward one

The stats speak for themselves. In Wednesday’s draw Chelsea registered a total of 17 shots, with only four of them on target and one producing a goal. For a side with ambitions of going to the latter stages of this competition, those figures are simply not good enough.

Before their next outing against Crystal Palace on October 1, Potter should overload his players with both close-range and long-range shooting drills to improve their efficiency in the final third. 

The Blues boss admitted as much in his post-match interview, saying: ‘They had a lot of blocks and we didn’t finish well all the time. We have to dust ourselves down. The application was great. We will get better.’      

Midfield dilemma 

Chelsea’s below-par second half was not solely a result of their own complacency or lowered intensity, nevertheless. The decision from Salzburg boss Matthias Jaissle to introduce Lucas Gourna-Douath at the half-time break was an inspired one, as the athletic teenager gave his side some much-needed legs in the middle of the park.

The away team began to thwart the likes of Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic in possession and overrun Potter’s midfield, which lacked an anchor to shield Thiago Silva and Cesar Azpilicueta at the back.

Lucas Gourna-Douath's introduction exposed Jorginho's lack of physicality in midfield

Lucas Gourna-Douath’s introduction exposed Jorginho’s lack of physicality in midfield

Chelsea miss N'Golo Kante's engine and do not have a suitable replacement as an anchor

Chelsea miss N’Golo Kante’s engine and do not have a suitable replacement as an anchor

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This was noticeable during Salzburg’s equaliser, when Gourna-Douath was able to break forward and release Dijon Kameri down the right-hand side with ease, before the latter teed up Okafor in the box after Silva failed with a rash, needless slide.

As Gourna-Douath advanced, Jorginho was caught in no man’s land while seemingly thinking about Kameri over his shoulder, but had N’Golo Kante been in the same position his fellow Frenchman would likely have been closed down and dispossessed.

Chelsea miss a fit and firing Kante’s presence at the heart of their midfield, especially given Jorginho’s lack of defensive quality and physicality. The injured star looked back to his best in last month’s 2-2 draw with Tottenham, covering every blade of grass as he so typically does and providing the platform for Jorginho to conduct his passing game.

There is nothing Potter can do in terms of recruitment until January with the window now closed, however he needs to find a solution to the Blues’ midfield dilemma when Kante is not available.

Especially when deploying a four-man backline when out of possession, a defence-minded midfielder guarding it is essential to prevent similar counter-attacks from stinging them in future.

Loan signing Denis Zakaria is capable of operating as an anchor, while Trevoh Chalobah could even be used there if necessary. Yet, the scarce options at their disposal makes the call to send Ethan Ampadu out on loan a puzzling one.

If he’s not satisfied with the midfielders in his ranks, Potter should consider reverting to Chelsea’s usual 3-4-3 setup to avoid being overrun in similar fashion.



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