BRIGHTON, England — If Graham Potter was in any doubt about what awaited him on his return to Brighton on Saturday, it dissipated because the gamers emerged for kick-off when the house followers tailored Beatles basic “Hey Jude” to “Hey Judas.”
This was a chastening and vastly embarrassing afternoon for the 47-year-old coach, who left Brighton abruptly final month after a vastly profitable three-year spell to switch Thomas Tuchel at Stamford Bridge. Saturday’s 4-1 defeat was his first as Blues boss and concurrently the primary win for his successor on the south coast, Roberto De Zerbi, on the sixth try.
Brighton have been magnificent, palpably enthused by the prospect of creating some extent to Potter that the step up he had taken didn’t elevate him to a untouchable perch. And this was not nearly Potter. Marc Cucurella, the defender who handed in a summer season switch request to hitch Manchester Metropolis earlier than Chelsea paid the next switch charge, £62 million, to land their man, had his first contact booed. Worse adopted when he delayed taking an early throw-in.
In complete, seven coaches, workers and gamers have traded Brighton for Chelsea to this point, a move of expertise which clearly angered the house followers.
“I did not have any expectations,” mentioned Potter. “I’ve nothing to apologize for, I’ve nothing to apologise for. I did a superb job. You’ll be able to see the group is an effective group. I took over once they have been fourth from backside within the Premier League, in all probability third-worst group.
“There’s some huge cash been raised by way of participant gross sales and there is a variety of good gamers on the pitch. I hope for his or her sake, the subsequent supervisor does nearly as good a job and that is sensible for them.”
What ought to alarm Potter extra is that this was a defeat largely of his personal making. Chelsea’s 3-4-2-1 system appeared extra like 3-2-4-1 given the superior deployment of Christian Pulisic and Raheem Sterling as wing-backs, a tactic which labored in Tuesday’s Champions League win at FC Salzburg, however faltered badly right here.
Brighton have been sharper and extra incisive from the primary whistle, enabling them to beat Chelsea’s lackadaisical press, again and again manoeuvring Solly March and Pervis Estupinan into one-on-one conditions in opposition to the broader pair of Chelsea’s three centre-backs. This method presents a excessive risk-reward and Chelsea weren’t with out risk within the first half. However they have been so frighteningly simple to play in opposition to that Brighton appeared like scoring nearly each time they went ahead, scoring three objectives within the opening 45 minutes of a Premier League sport — a feat they by no means achieved below Potter.
Chelsea have been a lot improved within the second interval as Potter switched to one thing approximating 4-1-4-1 with Ruben Loftus-Cheek at right-back, however the injury had already been performed.
“The duty for [the wing-backs] wasn’t to defend in opposition to their wing-backs however I perceive that everytime you do one thing and it does not work, you look a little bit of a idiot.” mentioned Potter. “That is how it’s. I’ve to simply accept that and cope with and do higher.”
Pretty much as good as Brighton have been, the sensation that Chelsea shot themselves within the foot grew from the outset. That they had already required Thiago Silva to clear off the road twice by the point they fell behind after simply 5 minutes.
Silva gave the ball away cheaply and out of the blue Kaoru Mitoma was driving in the direction of the Chelsea field. He slipped a intelligent move for Leandro Trossard, who stored his composure to spherical goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga and fireplace low into the online with Cucurella helpless on the road.
“Potter, Potter what is the rating?” sang the gleeful residence followers in response.
Two personal objectives adopted. First, Loftus-Cheek caught out a knee and inadvertently diverted March’s 14th-minute nook into his personal internet. Then, in simply one among so many examples the place Brighton overloaded their opponents in broad areas, Estupinan obtained in down the left and crossed. Trevoh Chalobah, on the slide, might solely flip the ball into his personal internet.
“You are getting sacked within the morning,” rained down from the stands as supporters continued to focus on Potter, who stood arms folded on the touchline, presumably in disbelief at how his aspect have been capitulating. Cheers rang out ever louder with every replay of Chalobah’s mistake on the large screens.
But Chelsea had possibilities of their very own even earlier than the break. Brighton goalkeeper Robert Sanchez saved effectively from Conor Gallagher, earlier than Pulisic steered a volley broad on the rebound. Sanchez then brilliantly palmed away a Gallagher header from Raheem Sterling’s left-wing supply.
However the risk-reward ratio was not of their favour. Potter has deserted the 3-4-2-1 form in earlier league video games and was compelled to do the identical right here. Loftus-Cheek was a driving pressure for his or her second half enchancment but it was acutely clear how a lot Chelsea miss Reece James, sidelined by a knee damage.
Three minutes right into a second interval which additionally started with Edouard Mendy changing Kepa in aim as a result of a foot downside, Loftus-Cheek pushed on and located a move again to Gallagher, who delivered a effective cross which Kai Havertz emphatically headed previous Sanchez.
Chelsea started to dictate proceedings however labored Sanchez solely sporadically. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, on for Sterling, compelled the Spaniard right into a diving cease to his left with 20 minutes left. Havertz blazed over within the field after extra good work on the appropriate from Loftus-Cheek. Nevertheless it was Brighton who had the final giggle — actually — as Mendy saved from substitute Julio Enciso just for Pascal Gross to pressure residence the rebound.
Previous to this sport, Chelsea had conceded simply 4 objectives in 810 minutes below Potter. Brighton scored 4 in a single afternoon, which ended with Potter, occupying the attention of the storm, warmly embraced by a number of of his former gamers when the warmth of battle had handed.
It was a uncommon convivial second on an in any other case dismal afternoon. Potter should rapidly consign this to historical past, simply as Brighton have performed with him.