The blueprint that saved Chelsea boss Graham Potter's job

The blueprint that SAVED Graham Potter’s job: Chelsea boss went back to basics as switch to 3-4-3 – which brought Antonio Conte and Thomas Tuchel success – worked wonders against Leeds and Dortmund

  • Graham Potter has gone back to a set-up that previously worked for Chelsea
  • Victories over Leeds and Dortmund might have saved Potter’s future at the club 
  • His deployment of a back three against the Bundesliga side paid off handsomely 

Graham Potter went back to a setup that has brought so much recent joy under Antonio Conte and Thomas Tuchel for the two games that were defining for his Chelsea future.

Chelsea feared they may have to divert from their intention to stick with Potter for this season and next at least after their record January spree failed to spark an improvement in results. 

But when Potter needed it most he inspired Chelsea to two huge wins against Leeds and Borussia Dortmund to quell the doubts about his future.

After so much tinkering – much of it enforced – Potter’s deployment of a back three paid off handsomely.

He has tried it before during his Stamford Bridge reign but has had more players capable of making it a success available and seem like a setup he can build on in the last two games.

Graham Potter went back to basics to help inspire Chelsea to a return to winning ways

Now a template is in place it is easier to see where some of his fringe players may fit in when called upon and future signings too.

Sportsmail took a closer look at the formation and some of his options for the various roles in it.


Kepa Arrizabalaga has cemented his place as No.1 amid Edouard Mendy’s injury issues this season. Question marks over some of the goals he has conceded but been far more assured than earlier in his Chelsea career. 

Has impressed staff with his personality and dedication to the game and clearly a leader too, ending the last two games with the armband. Done well enough to leave Chelsea reconsidering their goalkeeper plans for the summer and Mendy on the way back from broken finger.

Right-sided centre back

Wesley Fofana is ideal for the role with his defensive qualities, comfort on the ball and pace. Helps Chelsea defend on the halfway line knowing he can get back. 

Also comfortable in and able to get across to cover in wide areas and contribute at the start of attacking moves. Trevoh Chalobah is one alternative candidate for the position too.


Kalidou Koulibaly played against Leeds and Dortmund but when he regains fitness would likely be Thiago Silva. 

Both experienced defenders with know-how to read game expertly enabling them to deal with central danger and be security blanket for outside central defenders if needed. Koulibaly knew there would be an adaptation period after eight years in Italy and looked a more viable option of late.

Kalidou Koulibaly has looked a more viable option as of late though Thiago Silva will likely take his place when he returns to fitness

Left-sided centre back

Balance provided by having a left footer is key. Benoit Badiashile has similar attributes to Fofana plus that natural left foot. Been hugely impressive since his January arrival. 

What Marc Cucurella lacks physically compared to Badiashile he made up for with his tenacity against Dortmund. 

Was on the front foot all night and outstanding. Been a difficult time for Spaniard on and off the pitch but spell out of team looks to have done him some good. Chelsea have Levi Colwill to come back from loan spell at Brighton and remain interested in RB Leipzig’s Josko Gvardiol.

Right wing back

Reece James is the occupier of this role and one of the best in the world in the position with his technical qualities and ability to contribute at both ends. Also a crossing threat. 

Cesar Azpilicueta has his qualities but nobody can replicate what James does when he is out but Malo Gusto will arrive in the summer who Chelsea hope will be a far more suitable alternative and mean there is less of a drop off when James is absent.

Reece James is one of the best in the world in his position with his technical abilities

Central midfield

Mateo Kovacic and Enzo Fernandez have partnered each other in the last two games and fared better than against Southampton, a game Chelsea lost. All round midfielders who can do a bit of everything and chip in defensively and in more forward areas look best for these positions. 

N’Golo Kante is back from injury soon and someone previous Chelsea managers have felt has more to his game than just being a defensive midfielder. 

Conor Gallagher, Ruben Loftus-Cheek – who has also filled in at right-wing back – Denis Zakaria and Carney Chukwuemeka are other potential options. Chelsea have a host of midfielders in their sights for the summer, many who could do a similar job.

Left-wing back

Ben Chilwell has been a big miss like James on the opposite flank. Was a constant out ball against Leeds and source of crosses from the left in last two games. Instinct is to provide an attacking outlet but has the energy and speed to get back and defend. 

Cucurella was bought to support Chilwell after injuries last season but struggled. May fare better from now on if Chelsea continue to look a little more settled.

Ben Chilwell has been a big miss like James on the opposite flank and impressed on Tuesday

Right forward

Raheem Sterling played there against Leeds and Dortmund, scoring against the latter. Speed gave Chelsea a vital threat in behind and with slightly tweaked runs their margin of victory could have been far greater against Dortmund. 

Mykhailo Mudryk predominantly a left winger but has pace to replicate Sterling threat. Hakim Ziyech and Noni Madueke alternative right-sided options but left footers so offer different challenge to opponents.

Central forward

Kai Havertz has predominantly played here and needed a night like Tuesday. Not been involved in enough goals but delivered another memorable one in Europe against Dortmund.

Potter seems to favour a roving forward – Christopher Nkunku might be able to do similar when he joins in summer from RB Leipzig – as opposed to a more traditional No.9 like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang despite the value of the latter. 

Another option, Armando Broja, is out for the season injured and Napoli’s Victor Osimhen one under consideration for the summer.

Left forward

It is clear what calibre of player Joao Felix is in the assured way he speaks and plays, wanting to get on the ball and take responsibility for making things happen.  He also thinks and acts quickly. 

Only scored once, unlucky on other occasions but classy forward still contributing. Frequency with which he drops into midfield to help connect the team is valuable and a danger in final third too. Christian Pulisic or Mason Mount could perhaps attempt to do similar.

Kai Havertz and Raheem Sterling scored the important goals to inspire Chelsea to victory

The frequency Joao Felix drops into midfield to help connect the team is valuable for Chelsea

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