The blueprint that saved Potter’s job
Return to 3-4-3 earned crucial wins
WITH his future on the line, Graham Potter reverted to a system that has proved so successful for Chelsea in the past.
Three at the back, wing-backs, two central midfielders and a three-pronged attack. All of a sudden the dark clouds engulfing the club lifted.
It worked well for previous managers Antonio Conte and Thomas Tuchel and, after winning the last two games that were so pivotal to Potter’s future, the system once again delivered precious results.
Chelsea feared they may have to abandon their long-term plan — and Potter — after their remarkable January spree failed to spark an improvement in results.
But when Potter needed it most, he inspired Chelsea to two huge wins against Leeds and Borussia Dortmund to quell the doubts about his future.
Here, Sportsmail takes a closer look at Potter’s 3-4-3 and how his massive squad fits into it.
KEPA ARRIZABALAGA has cemented his place as No 1 amid Edouard Mendy’s injury issues this season. Question marks remain over some of the goals he has conceded but, overall, he has been far more assured than earlier in his Chelsea career. Mendy is on the way back from a broken finger.
RIGHT CENTRE BACK
WESLEY FOFANA is ideal for the role with his defensive qualities, comfort on the ball and pace. He helps Chelsea defend on the halfway line and is comfortable moving into wide areas. Trevoh Chalobah is one alternative candidate for the position.
KALIDOU KOULIBALY played there against Leeds and Dortmund but when he regains fitness, Thiago Silva is the likely candidate to fill the role. Both are experienced defenders who read the game well, enabling them to deal with central danger and backup their outside defenders if needed.
LEFT CENTRE BACK
THE balance provided by having a left- footer is key here. Benoit Badiashile has similar attributes to Fofana, plus that natural left foot, and has been hugely impressive since his January arrival. Marc Cucurella was a surprise pick on Tuesday, having struggled at wing-back, but his tenacity and proactivity made up for his lack of physicality.
REECE JAMES is one of the best in the world in the position, with his technical qualities and ability to contribute at both ends. Cesar Azpilicueta has his strengths but nobody can replicate what James does. Malo Gusto will arrive from Lyon in the summer and Chelsea hope he will become a credible alternative.
MATEO KOVACIC and Enzo Fernandez have partnered each other in the past two games and look ideal as all-round midfielders. N’Golo Kante will return from injury soon and is someone previous Chelsea managers have felt is more than just a defensive midfielder.
LIKE James, Ben Chilwell has been a big miss when out injured. His instinct is to provide an attacking outlet but he has the energy and speed to get back and defend.
SPEED and runs give Chelsea a vital threat in behind. Mykhailo Mudryk is predominantly a left winger but has pace to replicate Raheem Sterling’s threat. The leftfooted Hakim Ziyech and Noni Madueke are also options here.
KAI HAVERTZ has predominantly played that role and needed a night like Tuesday. He has not been involved in enough goals but delivered against Dortmund. Potter seems to favour a roving forward — Christopher Nkunku might be able to do similar when he joins in the summer from RB Leipzig — as opposed to a more traditional No 9.
IT IS clear what calibre of player Joao Felix is in the assured way he speaks and plays, wanting to get on the ball and take responsibility for making things happen. He has only scored once but has been unlucky on other occasions and still contributing. The frequency with which he drops into midfield to help connect the team is valuable. Christian Pulisic or Mason Mount could, perhaps, attempt to do similar.