ADRIAN KAJUMBA: Potter's culture is already bearing fruit at Chelsea

ADRIAN KAJUMBA: Graham Potter’s thoughtful culture is already bearing fruit at Chelsea – but the legacy he left at Brighton could come back to bite him on the south coast this weekend

  • Graham Potter’s Chelsea travel to Brighton in the Premier League on Saturday
  • The ex-Seagulls boss is unbeaten in nine matches since his arrival at Chelsea
  • Meanwhile, Brighton have yet to win a match since Potter’s departure last month
  • The south coast club benefitted hugely from the culture he set with the team
  • Potter’s legacy at Brighton could well come back to haunt him at the weekend 

When Leandro Trossard halved the deficit at the Etihad last week, Brighton’s belief they could get a result at the home of swashbuckling Manchester City was reignited.

They may not have in the end but that they had any in the first place is one of the main legacies of Graham Potter’s Seagulls reign.

Before Potter rocked up at Brighton their record at the top six clubs was poor, a point maybe the height of their ambitions and the view was that lots needed to go their way for victory.

Graham Potter faces his old club Brighton when Chelsea travel to the south coast on Saturday

Not anymore. There is a far greater belief Brighton can mix it with the big six now.

And Potter might rue the fearless attitude he helped instil in Brighton when he makes a swift return with Chelsea today.

For Brighton, Potter’s departure last month came at a bad time, six games into the league season and with the Seagulls flying high in fourth.

And Potter leaving to further his career may have been hard for some of a Brighton persuasion to take regardless of Chelsea’s lure, especially with five members of his backroom team following him to Stamford Bridge and the prospect of head of recruitment Paul Winstanley making the same move emerging too.

But there is no denying the impact he made at The Amex, some of which will already sound familiar to his new Chelsea colleagues and those he left behind at Brighton will forever acknowledge.

The former Seagulls head coach has already managed to instil his specific culture at Chelsea

Appointed from Swansea in May 2019, Brighton did not have to wait long for confirmation they picked a good one, a similar feeling they now have about his successor Roberto De Zerbi.

Coaching is one of areas Potter really excels and while away in the Austria for his first pre-season the quality and intensity of his short and sharp training sessions were quickly noted with the coaches he inherited at Brighton among those already convinced that Potter was the real deal.

His approach and the enjoyment his players got from working with him earned Potter some comparisons with Mauricio Pochettino, one of the managers of the moment at the time having recently taken Tottenham on a rollercoaster ride to the Champions League final.

Brighton owner Tony Bloom liked what he saw too and, to the surprise of some, gave Potter a new six-year contract just six months after he joined on a four-year one.

Meanwhile, Brighton have failed to win since the arrival of new manager Roberto De Zerbi

At Chelsea a similar uplift in training and attacking intensity has been felt since Potter’s arrival, with promising signs of that played out in Tuesday’s Champions League win at Red Bull Salzburg.

There has also been a sense quickly detected by some of his new stars that Potter ‘has got something about him.’

In their league finishes the change at Brighton was not initially dramatic.

Potter inherited a side that finished 17th, led them to 15th and 16th in his first two seasons before last year’s record-breaking leap up to ninth.

But while more tangible table improvement took a while to show the Potter effect was evident elsewhere.

A string of players, many of them cleverly recruited by Brighton, hit new heights.

How his consistent displays under Potter have not earned Lewis Dunk far greater England recognition has bemused.

Moises Caicedo – pictured tackling Phil Foden – continues to make great progress at Brighton

Solly March, Alexis Mac Allister, Moises Caicedo, Adam Webster all continue to flourish.

Marc Cucurella, Yves Bissouma, Ben White and Dan Burn’s performances earned them big moves.

One Brighton players’ former manager was left staggered at the improvement Potter coaxed out of him and the level he has now gone onto.

‘The group’ is a big focus of Potter’s and the collective is something he has regularly referred to at Chelsea when the conversation has honed in on the form of one player.

Potter swiftly inspired a loyalty from his group at Brighton. In his early days there was an expectation, and in some cases even a hope, that he would have a go at his players at certain times.

When they realised going for them or hanging them out to dry was not his style it marked the start of Brighton’s players believing and trusting in Potter even more.

Potter was calm, positive and gave them confidence to try things. Rather than criticise, he would talk his players through situations when things were not done correctly.

Chelsea were denied a win against Manchester United after Casemiro’s 94th minute leveller

There were even times when he was prepared to go into battle for them against the club’s hierarchy.

Potter is happy to embrace the quirks in an individual’s personality but threaten the harmony though of the group and danger awaits as he has a ruthless side too.

Bissouma was one player whose behaviour, including time-keeping, caused an issue among Potter’s squad and he was eventually dropped for a spell last season.

On another occasion, when Neal Maupay had to be held back after going for some of his teammates in the dressing room, Potter hauled him in and ordered the striker to stay away from the club for a few days until he had calmed down and resolved his issues. That was disruptive behaviour he was not prepared to tolerate.

Potter is said to have used Adam Lallana as a mediator for his talks with Maupay and had a senior group of players he relied on generally to aid communication with his wider squad.

Lallana also played a role in helping Potter change Brighton’s mentality and approach to taking on the league’s elite having joined from then-champions Liverpool.

And for all the talk about how Potter might manage big characters at Chelsea, Brighton’s loved working under him and were among those disappointed he has now gone.

Potter’s zero ego, down-to-earth nature is a big part of his success.

At Brighton there were countless examples of it, not least the time he and some of his coaches spent the night sleeping rough to help raise funds and awareness for the homeless in Brighton while during the pandemic he manned phones to speak to lonely fans during lockdown.

The legacy he left at Brighton could come back to bite Potter against his old club this weekend

Potter has brought his human touch to Chelsea and how approachable and honest he and his staff are has gone down well with his new players, along with the increased levels of communication, creating a happier environment.

Back at Brighton there were times when there were doubts about Potter and calls for his head like in his first season, a foundation-laying campaign when they battled relegation but one also impacted by the outbreak of Covid and during which he had to cope with the tragic loss of both of his parents in quick succession.

Other extended winless runs also proved to be patience-testers for some supporters.

But what transpired for the club and him shows the value of keeping the faith in Potter as Chelsea’s new owners have indicated they intend to.

Some at Brighton never feared or wavered in their support because they could see the progress being made and the bigger picture.

Just as the Seagulls benefitted immensely from Potter’s time at Brighton, it could be instructive for Chelsea too.

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