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Are Chelsea finally turning the corner under Graham Potter?

Chelsea head coach Graham Potter

It’s been a big week for Chelsea and for head coach Graham Potter.

Under severe pressure following a dismal run of form, some reports suggested Potter’s job may even have been on the line had the Blues failed to beat Leeds United in the Premier League or progressed into the last eight of the Champions League by advancing past Borussia Dortmund.

But Potter and Chelsea delivered in both, edging past Leeds 1-0 thanks to a Wesley Fofana goal before Raheem Sterling and a Kai Havertz penalty helped their side oveturn a one-goal deficit from the round of 16 first leg and progress in Europe at the expense of Jude Bellingham’s Dortmund.

Could this be the start of an upturn in form for Chelsea, or is there more to suggest that it could still be a struggle for the rest of the season? Hayters TV looks into the last two games and whether or not this could be the turning point for Potter…

The positives

Scoring two goals in a game

Chelsea’s struggles in front of goal under Potter have been well documented. The Blues rank just 14th in the Premier League for goals scored this season and had failed to score two goals in a game in 2023 before the win over Dortmund.

Potter’s side took a deserved lead in the first half through a fine finish from Sterling, who made no mistake at the second time of asking after originally fluffing his lines from his first attempt.

And while Chelsea’s second goal may have come from the penalty spot, it will no doubt be of immense relief for fans to see their team finally take a two-goal lead in a game.

Potter will be hoping this can be the start of an improved run of goalscoring form, having been guilty of missing chances too often while also struggling to create opportunities in some games.

Fans behind Potter

The Chelsea boss has come in for a wealth of criticism during his team’s poor run of form, which peaked after the 1-0 home defeat to Southampton.

But Potter will be hoping the atmosphere against Dortmund will be a sign of what’s to come more often. He was seen waving his arms and gesturing for the crowd to get behind the team, which they duly did by responding to his calls.

It felt like it could be the start of a turning point for the head coach, who has had a really tough start to life at Chelsea.

Tactical clarity?

Potter has always been a coach who likes to tinker and try new things, but it may not be a coincedence that both of the recent crucial victories came with him deploying a back three over a four.

The Chelsea head coach also stuck with a settled front three of Sterling, Kai Havertz and Joao Felix for both games. Havertz’s form has been questionable at times this season but his performance against Dortmund will provide optimism that he can be more effective moving forward into the rest of the campaign.

Has Potter finally found the basis of a team and system which is most capable of getting him results? The packed fixture schedule will no doubt mean changes will need to be made at certain times, but he may have found the best solution for the short term at least.

Areas to improve

Chance creation and conversion

While scoring two goals in a game for the first time this year will hopefully be a sign of things to come for Chelsea, there is certainly still some way to go when it comes to consistently creating good chances to score.

There have been times when the Blues can blame missed chances for their poor results, such as the first leg loss to Dortmund, but creating chances has also been an equal part of the problem.

Against Leeds, Chelsea still only managed three shots on target and an expected goals of 1.46. Their big chances missed figure also stood at three, while they missed two against Dortmund also.

Both games had positives, against Dortmund more so, but the attack is still something which needs to convince on a more consistent basis for Chelsea to really improve.

Fans still need more convincing

Speaking of convincing, it’s fair to say that Potter has not completely won over the whole fanbase off the back of two wins. The bad run of form prior to that is still fresh in a lot of supporters’ minds.

The Dortmund win was vital in winning support from the crowd, something which he had lacked leading up to the game.

Much of the focus at the club is on the long term and where Chelsea can be in a couple of years’ time, rather than right now. Potter inherited an injury hit squad and one which has spent more than £600m on new players in the last few months, and there is certainly an understanding that these have been mitigating factors for the poor form.

But now this group has more of an understanding of each other and players are coming back from injury, Potter has to pick up results in the next few weeks to build on that support. It is very hard to persist with something when supporters have lost faith, and losing against Leicester on Saturday would set him back again.

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Reliant on luck with the decisions

For all of Chelsea’s good work against Dortmund, ultimately the result came down to a handball penalty and being able to retake the first spot-kick, which Havertz missed.

The away side were understandably livid when Havertz got another chance to put his team ahead on aggregate, with both sets of players having encroached into the area, and it was a decision which proved to be the deciding factor in the tie.

It’s fair to say Chelsea have probably been due a bit of luck with decisions, but the fact such an important result came through that good fortune rather than a chance taken through open play still leaves an element of doubt that the Blues can sustain the improved goalscoring seen against Dortmund.

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