Graham Potter continues Thomas Tuchel trend as tactical nous hands Chelsea Champions League hope


Graham Potter has shown during his six months as Chelsea head coach that he is more than willing and open to altering his system dependent on the match his side have in front of them. Just like Blues supporters saw under Thomas Tuchel, it's been a mixture of three-at-the-back and back-four formations thus far during Potter's reign as boss.

Rather than being one set system or formation, the 47-year-old coach has kept the opposition guessing in virtually every match in the dugout. Potter has taken charge of 29 matches in all competitions as Chelsea head coach so far, with 15 of them being played using a back-three formation and the other 14 with four defenders on the pitch. The Blues have won seven matches (58.3%) of the 29 with three centre-backs and five games (41.7%) with four in defence.

Chelsea have seen a recent upturn in form with a quarter of Potter's wins coming in the last three matches. The Blues have beaten Leeds United, Borussia Dortmund and Leicester City over the past week or so and the side finally have some sort of momentum.

"It's been a really good week, three wins," Potter told reporters after the most recent win against Leicester. "A determined performance against Leeds and then a great one against Dortmund and to back it up today is really good from the players because it's not easy to do that in the Premier League, so I'm delighted for them. I'm delighted for the supporters, they were fantastic."

It has somewhat eased the massive pressure on Potter but the Chelsea boss is a very intelligent person and will know that just one negative result can completely change things once again. So it's imperative this weekend that the Blues pick up another positive result against struggling Everton. Will Potter persist with the back three formation that has led to Chelsea winning their last three outings? takes a look at the attacking and defensive stats from either using four or three defenders.

The orthodox back-four system

more conventional four-at-the-back formation has been used 14 times since Potter took charge over six months ago. In that time, they have won five, drawn three and lost six times. Chelsea's poor run of form ever since the turn of the year – bar the past three games – had been when using four in defence, so something had to change for Potter. Their only victory this year using a back-four was at home to Crystal Palace in January.

The Blues have scored 12 goals (just 38.7% of goals under Potter) in 14 matches while starting with four in defence and in that time they have conceded 14 (51.8% of goals conceded under Potter). The side average 12.8 shots per game, with 3.8 of them on target, while they face 9.8 attempts on goal (3.5 on target). So Chelsea have no issues creating opportunities while using this formation but it does not allow for Ben Chilwell and Reece James to be used higher up the pitch as wing-backs.

The full-back duo, who have both struggled with injury problems this season, are two of the side's strongest creative outlets and their recent returns to the squad have demonstrated just that. Chelsea average 58.7% possession when Potter uses four defenders in his team. They have dominated the ball at places like the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and Signal Iduna Park while using a back-four.

The more successful back-three

The back-three system, something that was consistently used under Tuchel , has been the more successful and popular system for Potter. The Chelsea head coach has started with three centre-backs in the XI for 15 of his 29 matches in charge of the west Londoners. In that time, Potter has led his side to victory on seven occasions, while they have drawn four and lost four. The Blues have scored considerably more goals while having three-at-the-back, with 61.3% of their goals under Potter coming in these games.

Meanwhile, they have conceded just 13 goals (48.2% under Potter's reign) in this time, but bizarrely they have face more attempts and shots on target (12.2 and 4.6) while using a back-three. So Kepa Arrizabalaga, on average, has more work to do when he has three central defenders in front of him.

Chelsea tend to have less of the ball when using a back- three formation, as they average 56.7% possession, which is around 2% less than the alternative four-at-the-back. In attack, also, they average more shots on target in less attempts per game (4.7 on target and 11.9 shots per game).

The tactical switch

Potter has shown on plenty of occasions this season, most recently against Leicester at the weekend, that he is not afraid to switch up the formation should the game require something of the sort. On Saturday afternoon, Leicester were winning the midfield battle going into the half-time break and then the Chelsea head coach brought Conor Gallagher onto the pitch and put an extra man in the middle .

In the second period, Chelsea gained more control of the game. James Maddison, who was causing trouble in between the Chelsea defence and midfield, was quieter because of the Blues' extra man in the middle. It's something we will definitely see more of between now and the end of the season, with Potter's flexibility one of the things that make him a very intelligent coach.

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