Graham Potter exclusive: Chelsea head coach explains how their January transfer window mega spend has changed the club’s direction | Football News
“Well, I guess I can’t imagine having too many of those types of days,” conceded Graham Potter on Chelsea’s Transfer Deadline Day business.
The call to Potter to tell him the record-breaking Enzo Fernandez deal from Benfica was finally done came just after midnight. There had been moments throughout the day when he thought it might not happen.
No wonder the Chelsea head coach’s overriding emotion was one of relief, but he is excited too about the undoubted talent of the young Argentine.
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“We were aware of him before the World Cup, we knew of his qualities,” Potter exclusively told Sky Sports ahead of their Friday Night Football fixture with Fulham. “He was one of those players we were thinking about and then we watched him at the World Cup and thought this could be a bit more expensive than we thought.
“He’s determined, humble, you can see how he plays football he has personality and character. He’s played so many big games already at such a young age and moved away from his family and all that comes with it. He is a determined young man who knows what he wants, knows the game, wants to help the team and I look forward to getting to know him.”
If the paperwork and clearance is completed in time, Fernandez may play a part in Friday’s game. So too might Hakim Ziyech after the shambolic collapse of his deal to PSG in the final hours of Transfer Deadline Day.
“I spoke with him after,” said Potter “It’s part of football, it can happen, he’s so disappointed to get to that point. You think you are in one place and then suddenly you aren’t but he is professional, he knows the game, is supportive of this team and he wants to get back to helping us.
“He was good today, that’s the consideration about getting him right back into it. He wants to play football and achieve the most he can out of his career now with us. He is committed to us and we are looking forward to seeing him in the second half of the season.”
‘There have been enormous challenges since day one’
It won’t be the last time this season when Potter has to deliver some uncomfortable news. In a squad that was already brimming with international stars, a busy transfer window will lead to more difficult conversations over team selection.
“In an ideal world you wouldn’t want to be having them but that’s my job,” said Potter. “You have to do it in a respectful, honest and transparent way – and respect the fact there will be disappointment and frustration and you allow for that and help them go forward.
“You have to look at right combination, the balance of the group, and take the tough decisions. A lot of players can put up a strong case. That’s our challenge and I am not complaining about it – it’s part of the job and I am really looking forward to taking it and doing the best I can.
“I think there have been enormous challenges since day one. The club has gone through tremendous change with the ownership, there needs to be stability and calm which is hard for me to say when we have made the signings we have made. But going forward we have to build the team the culture and the environment and then you can start to see real progress I think.”
‘We have changed the direction of the team’
What some have struggled to see is the strategy behind the club’s rebuild under Todd Boehly. ‘Scattergun’ is the word that has been used in some quarters to describe the £600m spending spree at the club since the American billionaire’s takeover.
So what is Potter’s view of the bigger picture?
“Sometimes people can’t see things and that’s normal. From our perspective, we can see quite clearly in this window,” he said.
“You look at the age of the players, where they are in their careers, a combination of the investment in the transfer fee and salary has made good sense for us and where we’re at. We’ve got a hungry group of players who are ready to help the team now and also grow and grow as the club develops.
“The players that we have signed, the age of them, we have changed the direction of the team to where they needed to go, it is now about making it function.”
‘Our ambition is to win’
With Chelsea 10th in the Premier League and needing to make up a 10-point gap to the top four, how quickly can that happen?
Potter emphasises it will take time and you get the sense he will be given it. He won’t talk targets or speculate on his future if they don’t qualify for the Champions League but he hopes for and expects significant improvement in the second half of the season.
“Our ambition is to do as well as we can until the end of the season,” Potter added. “Our ambition is never to finish fourth or third or second, our ambition is to win. We are trying to do that with the signings we have made, we have showed our intention. At the same time, we understand the process and position, and we have to keep working.”
That begins tonight against a Fulham team who beat Chelsea 2-1 just a few weeks ago. As well as his glittering new star signings Potter could also have Reece James, Ben Chillwell and Raheem Sterling back from injury – it will be one of the most anticipated team sheets in some time as we get a glimpse of this evolving Chelsea side.