Chelsea boss Graham Potter hints at re-think over Raheem Sterling wing-back experiment
Graham Potter has suggested he may have to rethink playing Raheem Sterling as a right wing-back after tweaking his system in the victory over Aston Villa.
The Blues suffered a major blow last week when Reece James limped off in the Champions League victory over AC Milan with the 22-year-old set for eight weeks on the sidelines with a knee problem.
It rules him out of Chelsea’s frantic run of fixtures over the next month – also serving as a major blow for his World Cup hopes – and forces Graham Potter to consider other options at right-back.
Sterling was deployed on the right of Chelsea’s five-man backline on Sunday at Villa Park and while the visitors took the lead through Mason Mount, they struggled in the first-half.
Potter reconsidered the game plan before half-time, shifting Ruben-Loftud Cheek to right wing-back with Sterling moved to his regular role in the front three.
Cesar Azpilicueta came on at half-time to offer a more orthodox option in the role.
Discussing the decision to use Sterling in the role, Potter explained in his post-match press conference: ‘It can happen sometimes when you lose a key player, you need to try to get a feel.
Chelsea manager Graham Potter
Potter made changes before the end of the first-half
We tried to be back three in build-up and back four defensively with Raheem [Sterling as a wing-back].
‘I thought we started the game quite well in the first 15 minutes but then we lost a bit of momentum and they were able to put pressure on, pick up second balls and get behind us.
‘We had to make a change at half time I felt and the boys did it well. We’ve got options there.’
zone post image for post 17572626
Reece James makes World Cup vow with Chelsea star facing lengthy injury lay-off
Potter added: ‘Raheem can play high and wide in all those position, but clearly the balance of the team is one that we have to look at and find the right solutions.’
Chelsea’s win over Villa, their fifth on the bounce in all competitions, keeps them in the top four, three points clear of fifth place Manchester United who they face on Saturday.
The Blues make the short trip to Brentford for midweek Premier League action on Wednesday.