New Chelsea owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali must be wondering how many times they will have to stay loyal to their manager in an atmosphere of discontent.
Not for the first time since the pair decided to swap Thomas Tuchel for Graham Potter, following a 0-1 loss to managerless Southampton, there was anger at Stamford Bridge.
Although Potter was touted as a long-term game by Chelsea, the club’s consistently poor form made the promise of a better future a much harder concept to hold on to.
Not for the first time rumors circulated about potential replacements. The most recent was the suggestion that the most prestigious and fitting name in world football, Mauricio Pochettino, had turned down the opportunity to lead the club.
Although the former Tottenham Hotspur boss lives in London, knowing the league well and having a reputation for developing exactly the type of players Chelsea have assembled, he didn’t think it was the right club for him.
Another name linked with the Blues many times is one of the most familiar names in the history of the game; Zinedine Zidane.
The former Real Madrid manager has long been seen as the epitome of a ‘great team manager’, a man with such a solid reputation that he has the respect of the dressing room as soon as he walks in the door.
After all, who can question a man who has done it all in the game and has the medals to prove it?
His vast experience at the highest level of the game and his innate understanding of the mentality of elite players are exactly the qualities that Potter lacks.
They are the area where, from the start, doubts were expressed
His reign at Stamford Bridge had only just begun when he was asked about comments Chelsea striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had made about his former manager Mikel Arteta on the subject.
“Managing great players, great characters – he can’t deal with that,” said the Gabon international, “Some young players, they don’t say anything.”
When asked how he viewed such a statement, Potter’s response was usually straightforward. “As far as I know, they are still human beings,” he said. journalists“there’s a media perception that you reach a certain level and they grow a second head or something, they don’t become like the rest of us.”
When he explains it like that, it’s hard to argue with Potter, superficially there’s nothing different between an elite player like Raheem Sterling and more ordinary talents Potter has managed like Solly March.
Except when March returns home from Brighton training he doesn’t have the same pressures as Sterling, if he doesn’t make the starting XI the following week the impact isn’t the same.
If Sterling doesn’t play for a club at the top of the Premiership
His YouTube channel visits and social media engagement will be negatively impacted and his many advisors will line up to explain why he should be on the team.
It’s the difference between a player who is just an athlete and one who is a CEO athlete.
Such responsibility may not develop a literal second head, but it certainly creates one figuratively.
That said, on the whole Potter is right, it is a mistake that elite athletes only respond to prestige coaches, the evidence is that the opposite is true.
Thierry Henry and how prestige can be the enemy of progress
In football, as in many sports, there is a tendency to assume that greatness on the pitch leads to excellence in the dugout.
Especially among players where leadership is a facet of their playing career, the belief that these skills will automatically translate into management is pervasive.
Just look at how quickly Liverpool and Chelsea legends Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard were promoted to the top level of the game with little experience.
Lampard in particular continued to be presented with opportunities despite his coaching record showing little that he deserved them.
But an even starker example of how leaning on a big name leads to a terrible downfall can be found with another Premier League giant from the 2000s; Thierry Henry.
Hopes were high for the France World Cup winner when he was appointed Monaco coach in 2018 but, despite the talents of Radamel Falcao and Cesc Fabregas, performances were abysmal and he was fired.
Russia star Aleksandr Golovin explained why it went so badly, who said Henry struggled to understand or communicate with the players.
“When things weren’t going well during training, he would get nervous and shout a lot. Maybe it was unnecessary,” he said. explain.
Henry would interrupt drills and perform drills himself, Golovin added, which only increased the barrier between him and the players.
“He was trying to go out there and show us how to train and how to scream,” the Russian star continued.
“Maybe another manager would say ‘let’s go, let’s pull it together’, but he would get nervous straight away and run onto the pitch and start playing and showing us things.
“He was shouting ‘try to get the ball away from me’. The players were mostly calm, but maybe they were a bit in shock.
You only have to look at the best coaches the game has ever produced, past and present, to see playing ability and on-field leadership count for next to nothing.
With a few exceptional exceptions, like Johan Cruyff and Carlo Ancelotti, the overwhelming majority had either average careers, like Jurgen Klopp and Alex Ferguson, or total underdogs, like Arrigo Sacchi and Jose Mourinho.
Indeed, the ability of a coach is not simply to lead, they must be an effective communicator and think analytically.
It may be more complicated to manage an athlete CEO like Raheem Sterling, but that doesn’t mean someone like Zidane will automatically be better at doing it.
Given Potter the time he was afforded at Brighton and Swansea, his record suggests success will follow.