Cole ‘admires’ Potter’s ‘principles’; ex-Chelsea man blames woeful form on ‘long-term picture’

Jason Soutar
Joe Cole during BT Sport punditry

Joe Cole has praised struggling Chelsea boss Graham Potter for sticking to his “principles” despite the club’s woeful run of form.

Potter replaced Thomas Tuchel last September after Todd Boehly decided to go forward with a new head coach.

After a decent start to life as Blues boss, Potter is now the second-favourite behind West Ham’s David Moyes to be the next Premier League manager sacked.

Chelsea have only won two of their last 14 league encounters and have failed to score more than one goal in a game since the 2-0 win over Bournemouth on December 27.

It is no surprise to see the former Brighton boss come under criticism, especially considering the amount of money Chelsea spent in the winter transfer window.

It is believed that the club’s hierarchy are willing to give Potter time to lead the rebuild following the Roman Abramovich era, however.

And former Blues winger Joe Cole has jumped to the defence of the 47-year-old.

Cole actually criticised Potter for not losing his head after his side were denied a stonewall penalty against West Ham, begging the question: does Graham Potter ever get angry?

Potter was asked about this in a pre-match press conference and his response really impressed the former England international.

Writing for The Telegraph, Cole said: “When Tomas Soucek was not penalised for his handball against Chelsea the weekend before last, I asked the question on television why Graham Potter had not gone on the attack with the referee, Var – the whole thing – as we have seen managers do so many times before.

“When Potter was asked about his reaction the following week, he said that it was just not how he wanted to behave. He was not going to change just because results were not going his way.

“That caught my attention. I admired it.

“Potter has shown he has some principles when it comes to referees – and it is easy to do that when you are winning. But the real test of how firmly you believe in them comes when things are going badly.”

Cole admits he sees things “differently” to fans who were upset after the home loss to 20th-placed Southampton.

The BT Sport pundit believes injuries are playing a huge part and is giving Potter the benefit of the doubt for leading the rebuild during a season, not over the course of a summer.

“Potter is wrestling with so many issues around this team,” he added. “He is dealing with injuries and not just those who are absent, but those who are coming back. There would have been a time when a manager would have felt there was no choice but to throw Reece James and Thiago Silva into that Southampton game. Potter took the long-term view. Their game time needs managing and by taking the decision to leave them out he paid a bigger price than he would have anticipated.

“Chelsea had the players to win that game, but in the Premier League there is always the possibility you might lose.

“He is building a team while trying to compete in the intensity of the season, integrate new signings, rehab the injured, and develop a playing style at the same time. That is not easy. When you factor in other aspects – like the players who can see their time coming to an end at the club, or those like N’Golo Kante, who just cannot seem to get fit – the problem just gets worse.

“Potter has been stoic about it – no blaming his players, or the referees, or anyone else. You have to suppose that Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali, the principals of the consortium in charge, will admire that. Potter came into a team that was not in a good place, with injuries, and it has proved as difficult as most people expected.”

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