Chelsea’s hierarchy are determined to drive a long-term cultural reboot under Graham Potter and they will stand by the new manager if he fails to qualify for the Champions League this season – as long as the overall direction of travel is positive.
Potter, who took over from Thomas Tuchel on Thursday, knows that the minimum requirement for the campaign to be considered a success would be a top-four Premier League finish, plus a decent run in the Champions League. Chelsea are sixth in the league after six matches – three points behind Potter’s previous club, Brighton, in fourth – and they lost their opening European game on Tuesday at Dinamo Zagreb, which proved to be Tuchel’s last game.
Under the previous Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, it was often the case that a manager’s job prospects were inextricably linked to Champions League qualification. But according to senior club sources, his successors do not want Potter to live or die by that criterion in his first season.
Progression is key in the eyes of Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali, the Chelsea co-owners, who moved for Potter with great speed after reaching the end of the line with Tuchel.
It is understood that Boehly – part of a group that bought the LA Dodgers in 2012 – sees parallels between Potter and Andrew Friedman, whom his baseball franchise hired as the president of sporting operations in 2014. Friedman had previously helped the Tampa Bay Rays to punch above their weight in the highly competitive American League East Division. Like Potter, Friedman is seen as someone who makes the people around him perform better.
Potter has been given a five-year contract and he may take heart from how the Dodgers have stood by their only managerial appointment – Dave Roberts – since Boehly became involved. Roberts was brought in for Don Mattingly in 2015.
Chelsea’s ownership have a 10-year plan to grow revenues and they would hope that it would not be derailed by one season spent without the Champions League.