Graham Potter's Chelsea visit a Newcastle side in RED HOT form
Graham Potter’s out-of-sorts Chelsea visit red-hot Newcastle this weekend with the pressure on after three defeats in four… with their top-four rivals in winnable fixtures, the Blues CANNOT afford another slip-up before the World Cup
- Chelsea could not have a tougher task in store away at Newcastle this weekend
- The Blues have failed to win a Premier League match in just under a month
- They also suffered a third defeat in four games away at Man City on Wednesday
- Newcastle, meanwhile, have only lost once all season and sit up in third place
- But the visitors cannot afford another defeat in their final pre-World Cup outing
Without a league win in almost a month and desperately seeking a turnaround, on paper not many tougher tasks could await Graham Potter’s out-of-form Chelsea side than a trip to high-flying Newcastle this weekend.
It speaks volumes about their contrasting fortunes right now that a Chelsea win at St James’ Park would almost be considered an upset. The Blues, crowned European champions just 18 months ago, are languishing in a post-honeymoon phase under new head coach Potter, who initially went nine matches unbeaten after replacing Thomas Tuchel in September.
But red flags had already emerged long before that first defeat came on October 29, when they were thrashed 4-1 by none other than Potter’s old employers Brighton, meaning it was no surprise to see them capitulate spectacularly that day.
Graham Potter has suffered his first major blip as Chelsea head coach in recent weeks
The Blues suffered their third defeat in four games away at Manchester City on Wednesday
And next up for Potter’s out-of-form side is a trip to high-flying Newcastle on Saturday night
Aston Villa could have inflicted similar punishment on Chelsea had they not squandered countless early opportunities before eventually losing 2-0. Brentford also caused them major problems in a derby stalemate three days later.
And Manchester United were hard done by to leave Stamford Bridge with only a point last month despite equalising in the dying seconds, such was their dominance throughout.
The point is, Chelsea had flattered to deceive in the weeks leading up to their Brighton humbling and, since being brought crashing back down to earth on the south coast, they have failed to convince supporters that better times are on the horizon.
They followed it up by scraping past Dinamo Zagreb at Stamford Bridge, having initially fallen a goal behind, before slumping to the most miserable of 1-0 defeats at home to Arsenal.
Wednesday night’s 2-0 loss away at Man City in the Carabao Cup was nowhere near as dispirited, nowhere near as depressing as Sunday’s showing against the Gunners.
Chelsea were threatening on the counter throughout, creating a handful of golden chances, and only had poor finishing to blame for their exit.
Potter acknowledged as much in his post-match interview, though his claim to be heading in the right direction did not sit well with some amid a run of three defeats in four games.
They produced a much more encouraging performance in their defeat at City on Wednesday
Potter was right to conclude that there are positives for him to take despite Carabao Cup exit
‘I thought there were quite a few positives,’ he said. ‘Obviously we are disappointed with the result but in terms of how we played, we created some good chances and there was a better structure and a better performance level.
‘The team looked closer to what we want it to look like. The boys had great courage and they tried against a top team.
‘Their keeper got the man of the match I think, which tells a bit of the story. But overall I think it was a step forward for us.’
Potter drew criticism for these comments online but there was an element of truth to them. While the defeat obviously hurt, Chelsea’s performance on the night was an encouraging one when compared to the lethargic, disjointed effort of three days prior against Arsenal, in which they offered little to nothing going forward.
The attacking spark on display in Manchester at least provides a hint of positivity and confidence ahead of their trip to Newcastle – and given the form their opponents are in right now, that hint is very much welcome.
But the performance on Saturday will mean nothing if they come away empty handed again
There could not be a tougher test awaiting Chelsea than a Newcastle side in red-hot form
Because it’s a very different story over on Tyneside, where Eddie Howe’s Saudi-backed Magpies are in sizzling-hot form after picking up four straight Premier League wins.
When showering Newcastle in praise it is almost frowned upon not to add the caveat that it is all largely because of their newfound Saudi money. The intertwining ethical dilemma is a discussion for another day, yet to attribute Howe’s triumphs this season to financial luxury is wide of the mark.
Yes, he was afforded around £130million worth of reinforcements over the summer. Before last year’s takeover Newcastle would have been lucky to spend half of that amount in a single transfer window. Though as Howe correctly pointed out earlier in the season, money does not always guarantee success and to assume that is the case here is doing him and sporting director Dan Ashworth a disservice.
Bruno Guimaraes, Kieran Trippier, Dan Burn and Nick Pope are proving inspired signings for the club, and the quartet set them back less than £80m over the past two windows. £20m per player.
Almost half of their summer outlay also went towards Swedish striker Alexander Isak, who has hardly featured due to injury. So Saudi cash is not the only factor in Newcastle’s rise. Howe and Ashworth have assembled a squad packed with reliable assets and star performers and they are reaping the rewards.
Eddie Howe is working wonders at St James’ Park, winning four straight Premier League games
The likes of Bruno Guimaraes did not set them back too much in the transfer market
Howe is also working miracles with Miguel Almiron, the 28-year-old forward mocked by Manchester City’s Jack Grealish at the end of last season. Almiron is Newcastle’s danger man right now after scoring eight goals in 14 games and generally taking his game to new heights.
The Toon are a team singing from the same hymn sheet as their manager, well in tune with his philosophy and executing it masterfully. The same cannot be said for Chelsea.
As a result, the latter will be walking into the lion’s den on Saturday to lock horns with a side brimming with confidence at St James’ Park.
The odds are well and truly stacked against them this weekend, but in their final outing before the World Cup break Potter and Co can ill afford another slip-up here.
Should they suffer a fourth defeat in five, Arsenal and Manchester City would be well out of reach by winning their own favourable fixtures against Wolves and Brentford.
Newcastle would also be nine points clear of them in third and Chelsea’s other top-four rivals also have simpler challenges in store this weekend. Tottenham face Leeds, Manchester United go away to Fulham and Liverpool host Southampton.
Chelsea will be up against it when they step into the lion’s den on Tyneside this weekend
If other results go against them and they fall victim to Newcastle’s ferocious form, the Blues could be down in 10th when the season resumes at the end of December.
While the pressure is beginning to mount on Potter he is by no means on borrowed time at Stamford Bridge. Despite the lazy consensus that he will be judged as harshly as every Chelsea manager of the last 15 years, this is a new regime and one that will afford him the time required to build a dynasty.
Though with that being said, qualifying for the Champions League remains essential for Todd Boehly in his bid to turn the west London club into a global powerhouse. And a torrid time on Tyneside would dent their hopes of doing so significantly.
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