Back-to-back wins following that defeat to PSV has Arsenal back in a groove with just three matches left before the break. Elneny returned and Zinchencko was back in the match-day squad. That puts Arsenal near full health in what will be their last ‘big’ match before the World Cup. The Gunners travel across London for the early kickoff on Sunday to take on a very hard-to-read Chelsea.
The Blues enter this weekend 6th in the Premier League three points back of Newcastle in fourth place. It’s been a somewhat chaotic start to the year for the club with a new owner, a surprising managerial switch, and mixed results across competitions. In the midweek Chelsea defeated Dinamo Zagreb 2-1 to top their Champions League group, but prior to that, they lost 4-1 at Brighton in the league. Perhaps part of that was down to the emotional elements of wanting revenge on Brighton’s part, but it shows that it is hard to predict a Chelsea outcome at the moment.
So we’ve dialed up Dávid Pásztor once again, the Editor over at SB Nation’s site for all things Chelsea Football Club - We Ain’t Got No History.
TSF: How surprised were you to see Thomas Tuchel’s exit so early in the season? What do you believe the new manager, Graham Potter, can bring not only to this current squad but the Chelsea organization if management gives him sufficient time?
WAGNT: Personally, I was very surprised, and the reaction in general was of similar shock. Tuchel’s results hadn’t been stellar to start the season, nor in preseason, but the new ownership had stated repeatedly how much they valued him as a top coach and were looking to build with him and spent the entire summer bowing to his transfer wishes. Tuchel himself didn’t see it coming at all either, and has since expressed surprise and sadness at the decision, calling his job not done at the club, his relationships with players and staff cruelly broken.
However, as it often turns out, behind the scenes all was not well, and Tuchel wasn’t quite synergizing with Todd Boehly & Co’s vision. And so, after 100 days, they cut him loose and declared Graham Potter their new chosen one.
As far as what Potter can bring, that’s a bit of a mystery. In theory, he will guide Chelsea into our future with progressive, enterprising, fun attacking play on the pitch, while executing to a long-term vision that he would also help develop in the process, alongside a reorganized technical and player recruitment department at the club (hiring for which is currently in progress).I may be less confident than most in Potter’s ability to live up to such lofty expectations — to have him be our Klopp or Guardiola — though we also still don’t really know how the new owners might handle certain situations, and how much leeway they might be willing to grant a manager. Roman Abramovich never cared about much more than winning at any and all cost; Boehly’s group does have a more complicated set of financial obligations and sporting aims.
TSF: With two managers so far this season and an upcoming World Cup break, is it too early to ask about Chelsea’s top priorities in the January transfer window?
WAGNT: After the summer transfer window, wherein Boehly took the reins as interim sporting director, the idea was to hire someone to fill that role on a permanent basis. That task is not quite done yet, and it might drag on for a bit longer, which would affect any sort of planning for January. That said, Chelsea have been linked with a few midfielders while we supposedly have some sort of super secret agreement with RB Leipzig forward Christopher Nkunku, which may or may not be true and may or may not happen in January (probably not).
TSF: Chelsea enters the weekend 6th in the table and is tied for the 10th most goals scored in the Premier League (17 from 12 matches). Last season after 12 rounds they had 30 goals. What have been the primary factors playing into this dip in goals so far in league play?
WAGNT: Chelsea’s goal-scoring has been a concern for quite a while now, with low chance-conversion rates off of inconsistent chance-creation. The Romelu Lukaku situation blew up in our faces, and no one else has stepped up. Raheem Sterling and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have eight goals combined to lead the way, but only half of those have come in the Premier League.
TSF: With the World Cup weeks away, Christian Pulisic is a primary focus for USMNT supporters. He’s had limited minutes, played several positions at Chelsea so far this season, scored just once, and been linked with a transfer or loan away. What is the current state of Pulisic under Graham Potter and how is he viewed by the Chelsea fanbase?
WAGNT: Pulisic has shown a few flashes of quality lately, but otherwise he’s been reduced to bench duty more often than not — perhaps unfairly as Tuchel liked to say. But the other side of the problem is that Pulisic really hadn’t done much to impress in his (frequent) substitute appearances. Potter does seem less likely to shoehorn Christian into an out-and-out wing-back, and we certainly could use a return his Project Restart form.
TSF: What is your predicted starting XI for Chelsea on Sunday and what will the final scoreline be?
WAGNT: I couldn’t even begin to guess at what Potter might choose to do after the mind-boggling decision to play an almost full-strength lineup against Dinamo Zagreb to get a result that had absolutely no competitive meaning for us. As far as the scoreline, I’m expecting Chelsea to continue our poor trend of failing to beat Arsenal at the Bridge in league play. Hopefully we can at least salavae a score-draw, say 2-2.
Thanks to Dávid and We Ain’t Got No History for taking the time to chat ahead of this weekend’s derby.