Graham Potter has admitted it will be challenging to maintain dressing room harmony after Chelsea increased the size of their squad with their frantic January transfer business.
The Todd Boehly-Clearlake Capital-owned club took their spending to more than £500m when they broke the British transfer record by buying Enzo Fernández from Benfica for £106.8m on deadline day.
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The midfielder became Chelsea’s eighth signing of the month, although Malo Gusto was loaned back to Lyon, and Potter could struggle to keep everyone happy as that Jorginho is the only sale. The head coach, who has to deal with an unhappy Hakim Ziyech after the winger’s loan to Paris Saint-Germain broke down, must leave some players disappointed and argue that Chelsea can only register three of the arrivals in their 25-man champions . League squad.
“There are challenges when you have that many players,” Potter said. “There are challenges in terms of the role they play as most players want to play. They want to play, be on the field and help the teams. When they are not, it is a challenge and it is a challenge for many reasons at this football club.
“When you go through a period of transition and the steps we’ve taken there are going to be periods when it’s tougher than you ideally want it to be – it’s not optimal. I’m not complaining about it and I have to do my best to support the club and manage it. Step by step I want to put the team in a better place than when I arrived.”
Chelsea, who are 10th in the Premier League before hosting Fulham on Friday, have invested heavily in youth. But they are out of the two home cups, limiting Potter’s opportunities to try.
“We’re still in the Champions League,” he said, referring to the next 16-year final with Borussia Dortmund. “We have ambitions to go deep into the competition. When you think about it, three games a week is quite often. I don’t think you can achieve success with just 11 here.”
Potter hailed Fernández as a “fighter” who will improve the team but accepted that Chelsea will be seen as a joke for paying so much for a player who joined Benfica last summer. “I can understand, absolutely,” he said. “Every move is a gamble. If you look at the market for midfielders – [even] midfielders who haven’t won the World Cup – you’ll be given a lot of money.
“We have a player with a huge personality. He played in midfield for Argentina who won the World Cup. He has qualities that will help him play in any league in the world.
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“He has already played well in the Champions League. We followed him before the World Cup; we knew about it anyway. We are confident in the personality. It’s like anything: he’s still a young man, he’s still a young man coming to this country. You have to adapt to the club. But we’ll help that and you think his personality: ‘Oh, I’m not worried about it.’
“He’s a fighter. I think he realizes how lucky he is. He fights for the team. He has courage, he has an open mind. If you’re playing as a Number 6 for Argentina and you’re playing the big games he played at his age, and with the quality he’s shown, it’s not easy to have those qualities.”
Ziyech was furious when his move fell through because Chelsea were unable to send the correct paperwork to PSG. The Moroccan is back in London and will be in the squad against Fulham.
“He’s a professional player and he understands the situation,” Potter said. “He is committed to us. He will be an important player for the rest of the season.”
Potter hopes Reece James, Ben Chilwell, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Raheem Sterling will return from injury against Fulham. Wesley Fofana, Armando Broja, Denis Zakaria, N’Golo Kanté, Mateo Kovacic and Christian Pulisic are still out.