Chelsea have gone seven matches unbeaten under Graham Potter, though it hasn’t all been plain-sailing for the Blues as they have learned how to battle
When Graham Potter selected his first team as Chelsea boss, though his formation was something new, he went for a tried and trusted approach.
“We’ve gone for good experience, good know-how of the Champions League and this football club,” said the 47-year-old ahead of face Red Bull Salzburg. It was 90 minutes that showed some promise even if the Blues did not leave Stamford Bridge with three points as Kepa Arrizabalaga, Cesar Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva, Marc Cucurella, Reece James, Mason Mount, Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic, Raheem Sterling, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Kai Havertz all started. Only Kepa and Mount have started every match since.
The Champions League draw was an okay start for Potter and nothing more. He emphasised following the 90 minutes, the culture he had both brought and entered into.
The former Brighton boss said: “We still understand where we are. We understand the demands of this football club, and as I said, I believe in an environment, culture and helping people improve, but we also know we have to win as well and be competitive, so nothing changes in that regard.”
It took three matches for Trevoh Chalobah to make an appearance under his new boss, and that only came as Wesley Fofana picked up an injury in the opening half of Chelsea’s 3-0 win over AC Milan. From that moment, Chalobah has completed every minute and has not seen a goal hit the Blues net, albeit with some help from Kepa Arrizabalaga.
The 23-year-old had his breakout season under Thomas Tuchel in 2021/22 but has looked more mature this term and more authoritative. Just over a year on from a difficult night against Brentford and Ivan Toney where Chelsea suffered a barrage on goal as the Blue started Chalobah to the right of Andreas Christian and Malang Sarr completed the back three, the academy product was joined by two more experienced players against the Bees.
Azpilicueta and Koulibaly played either side of Chalobah as the youngster took on perhaps the most important role in the backline, up against a difficult foe in Ivan Toney. It was not a flawless outing, the Chelsea star would have hoped to challenge the Brentford forward more forthrightly early in the game when he rose for a free header. However, he was there to disturb Toney throughout the match and if not win every challenge, ensure there was always pressure on the opposition.
The defender’s presence has not be unappreciated by Potter. “He’s come in and hasn’t let us down,” said Potter. “Again, he gives everything. A tough evening for him with the centre-forwards Brentford have. Different test, but stood up to it well. A soldier.”
It’s not to say Chalobah will never lose his place. But at the moment, while Thiago Silva’s minutes need managing during a hectic period of play, while Wesley Fofana remains unavailable Chalobah offers something the Blues can’t afford to be without. He ensures Chelsea’s backline has pace and a work-rate that matches with Potter’s ideals.
The Blues boss has spoken a lot about Chelsea embracing ‘the ugly side’ of the game and suffering during football matches. Mason Mount and Chalobah have both spoken about it in the last few days, and it is clearly important moving forwards. It’s an environment Chalobah is willing to show up in. If nothing else, his continued record of remaining unbeaten when starting for the Blues could prove persuasive when naming a competitive starting XI.