If Chelsea sack Graham Potter for ‘tinkering’, would he see Leeds as big enough to bother with?

Graham Potter at Leeds with Marcelo Bielsa Credit: Alamy
Graham Potter at Leeds with Marcelo Bielsa Credit: Alamy

Graham Potter is in trouble for trying to pick a team to win games for Chelsea so could be available to take a job with Leeds, who are only big in England. What a load of bollocks.

 

Tinker, tailor, soldier, why?
‘Potter is the new Tinkerman and Chelsea fans hate it’ is the headline on the Daily Telegraph.

Pretty sure that Chelsea fans hate losing and being mid-table, fellas. But Jim White has a theme and he is warming to it…

‘Worse, the manager appears not to know, in among his vast squad, the identity of his best team. Every match the changes are wholesale. Of his many predecessors the man he most resembles is Claudio Ranieri. This is the modern day Tinkerman.’

You know when the changes weren’t ‘wholesale’? When results were better. It’s almost like Potter is searching for his best team because the ones he is picking turn out to be sh*t.

After beating Crystal Palace last month, he then made a grand total of ONE change for the clash with Liverpool.

After drawing 0-0 with Liverpool, he then made a ‘wholesale’ THREE changes to bring in the now-fit Reece James and include some of his very expensive January signings.

As results have got worse and fixtures have become more frequent, he has made more changes. That’s what managers do when things are going badly. And they really are going badly.

‘Against Southampton, he was asked why Reece James, Thiago Silva, Ruben Loftus Cheek, Hakim Ziyech and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were watching from the stands, not even from the bench.

‘“No injuries,” Potter explained. “More just the turnaround and demand of the games. It was a case of managing the load and managing the squad.”‘

Shall we take those one by one?

Reece James had played three times in less than two weeks after pretty much three months off with a knee injury.

Thiago Silva is 38.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek has played twice this week already – his first football since the World Cup.

Hakim Ziyech has claimed no goals and one Premier League assist all season.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has not been in a match-day squad since January.

‘Yet, with James in particular, the question is: what was he being managed for? Surely if you have the best right back in the country available, you play him? For the newly signed players, the constant churn means they are unable to form proper partnerships. The endless succession of right wingers in particular would surely benefit from having James behind them.’

Maybe he is being managed for the rest of the season and the rest of his career? Unless you have access to the health monitoring statistics, we really would refrain from passing judgement on the workload of a player coming back from injury.

EDIT: Jim White’s colleague Matt Law has since cleared all this up.

‘But it is in attack that the chopping and changing appears to bring the least reward. When Raheem Sterling and Kai Havertz were brought off the bench at half time, they at least added some zest to a forward line that had defined the word insipid for the first 45 minutes.’

Isn’t that an argument for chopping and changing?

‘Were it not for some inspired defending by the visitors, Sterling might have given Potter respite, however temporary. Which demands the question: when you have two such experienced players fit and firing, why start the game with David Fofana and Noni Madueke, who between them demonstrate an excess of youthful callowness?’

But they weren’t ‘fit and firing’, Jim. Sterling had not started a game since New Year’s Day because of fitness problems and Havertz had started the last eight Premier League games (despite all the ‘wholesale changes’) and scored just twice.

‘The question among the departing Chelsea fans is how much longer he can continue to tinker.’

The question is how much longer he can continue to be in charge of a piss-poor Chelsea side; the tinkering is clearly a symptom of failure, not the cause. Unless, of course, you are trying to be so very clever.

 

Marching on together into nonsense
Mediawatch does not often look at the Sunday newspapers but Martin Samuel’s big-money move to the Times gives us no option when they publish his very expensive balderdash on the Sabbath.

In his latest offering, he argues that Leeds should look closer to home for their new manager, though crucially he stops short of suggesting any candidates because, well, of course he does. He is not here to provide solutions, only nonsensical questions.

‘Everyone thinks they have the prettiest wife at home, said Arsène Wenger. In the same way, everyone thinks they support a big club.

‘You see that whenever there’s a managerial vacancy, or a run of poor form. West Ham United fans think they should sack David Moyes and go for Thomas Tuchel. Graham Potter isn’t big enough for some at Chelsea at a time when, for instance, Zinédine Zidane is still on the market. Evertonians thought they had a crack at Mauricio Pochettino.

‘And now it is the turn of Leeds United. They have been without a manager since sacking Jesse Marsch on February 6 and appear genuinely surprised not to have been trampled in a jostling rush of eager successors. Victor Orta, the sporting director, wants a candidate who plays in the style of Marsch and Marcelo Bielsa, adding to the complications.’

First, West Ham fans who think that they can get Tuchel mid-season are idiots. Graham Potter probably isn’t big enough for Chelsea. And no Evertonian of sound mind thought they could get Mauricio Pochettino in a relegation battle.

And as for Leeds? They’re not targeting Carlo Ancelotti or Pep Guardiola, they are targeting the coaches of West Brom and Rayo Vallecano. And they have been turned down. Not because Leeds are not a big club, but because Leeds are a big club in a relegation battle.

But Samuel is having none of it.

Leeds, abroad, are a different matter. What have they done? What have they won? Leeds were most recently in Europe 20 years ago, eliminated by Malaga in a Uefa Cup third-round tie. Like Newcastle United, the only European trophy they have ever won – the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup – is no longer recognised by Uefa, and their last European final was 1975.’

And yet this somehow did not put off Marcelo Bielsa, who very much came from ‘abroad’.

‘It has been a rude awakening. Leeds’s instincts were right with Carlos Corberán at West Bromwich Albion, but they messed up by failing to offer him a sufficiently flattering contract. He accepted a better deal at his existing club, since when Leeds have suffered a series of humiliations. It will have come as a shock.’

Or Corberan chose a promotion challenge over a relegation battle. He is not the first and he will not be the last to make that call.

As for Feyenoord manager Arne Slot, he oddly chose a title challenge over a relegation fight but said: “It was a great compliment that a club like Leeds was interested but we are doing something great with Feyenoord.  We’re in a great position in the league, in the cup and in Europe. There is no disappointment. It is certainly not a punishment for me to stay here.”

It doesn’t sound like he turned down Leeds because they have won bugger all.

‘Leeds could be huge. The city is the biggest in England to be served by a single football club. Elland Road is ferocious and the locals proud. No worries about seeing the red of Manchester or Liverpool on the streets of West Yorkshire.’

This really is absolute bollocks. Take it from someone who lives in West Yorkshire.

‘And that’s the problem for Leeds now: the disconnection between where they are and where they’re at. Sean Dyche would have seen the opportunity and so too Howe, but those ships have sailed. Anyway, that’s not Leeds’s market.

‘They know they’re a big club, we know they’re a big club; but as they seek a continental solution, it’s the rest of the planet that needs convincing.’

The problem for Leeds is that they are a bit sh*t, Martin. That’s not a matter of perception. They’re not being unsuccessful in finding a new manager because they are not seen as a big club; they are being unsuccessful because they are in a relegation battle and the January window is closed.

Oddly, both Wolves and Villa brought in high-profile managers from ‘abroad’, despite being far from European giants. But crucially, the calls were made in October and November rather than February.

But if those already in England are the only managers who really see the size of Leeds, tell us who they could appoint? Having missed out on Dyche, who could you suggest? Of course Samuel suggests nobody.

We should perhaps be grateful that he doesn’t follow Graeme Souness in touting ‘Arry or Big Sam, though you suspect he is close.

The good news is that Potter might soon be available and he will know – being English – that Leeds are a big club.

 

Puh-lease brutality
The desperation to find a line, an angle, a hook from what was a pretty bog-standard win for a defensive Tottenham over an ultra-defensive West Ham takes The Sun website here:

‘What Declan Rice told Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg in brutal three-word blast overheard after row during Spurs vs West Ham’

A ‘brutal three-word blast’, you say? ‘Overheard’, you say? Did he call him ‘a Scandi c***’? Did he threaten to f*** his mother? Or did he, well, you know what he did because it wasn’t so much ‘overheard’ as ‘clearly seen by anybody watching the TV’…

Brutal. Savagely violent indeed.

 

Playing the reserves
‘BREAKING NEWS: Real Madrid travel to Liverpool WITHOUT Toni Kroos and Aurelien Tchouameni, leaving Carlo Ancelotti without two of his first-choice midfield three at Anfield in the Champions League’ – MailOnline.

PESKY NEWS: Real Madrid have won their last two games by an aggregate score of 6-0 without either Toni Kroos and Aurelien Tchouameni’ – Mediawatch.

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