Graham Potter admitted it will be a challenge to maintain harmony in the dressing room after Chelsea increased the size of their team with their frenetic transfer business in January.
The club took their spending to over £500m under Todd Boehly-Clearlake Capital ownership 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 during January, albeit with Malo Gusto on loan back to Lyon, and Potter could have trouble keeping everyone happy with Jorginho being the only sale. The head coach, who must deal with a disgruntled Hakim Ziyech after the winger’s loan to Paris Saint-Germain broke, will have to leave some players disappointed and deal with Chelsea being able to register just three of the starters in their Champions of 25 men. league squad.
“There are challenges when you have so many players,” Potter said. “There are challenges in terms of what role they play because most players want to play. They want to play, be on the field and help the team. When they’re not, it’s a challenge and it’s a challenge for many reasons in this football club.
“When you go through a transition period and the steps that we’ve gone through, there will be periods where it’s going to be more difficult than you ideally want, it’s not optimal. I don’t complain and I have to do everything possible to support and manage the club. Step by step I want to put the team in a better place than when I arrived”.
Chelsea, who sit 10th in the Premier League before hosting Fulham on Friday, have invested heavily in youth. But they’re out of both domestic cups, limiting Potter’s opportunities to experiment.
“We are still in the Champions League,” he said, referring to the upcoming round of 16 tie with Borussia Dortmund. “We have the ambition to deepen the competition. As soon as you think about it, there are three games a week quite often. I don’t think you can achieve success with just 11 here.”
Potter hailed Fernandez as a “fighter” who will improve the team, but conceded that Chelsea will be seen as reckless for paying so much for a player who joined Benfica last summer. “I can understand it, absolutely,” he said. “Each signing is a bet. If you look at the market for midfielders, [even] midfielders who have not won the World Cup: they will quote you a lot of money.
“We have a player with a great personality. He played in the midfield for Argentina that won the World Cup. He has attributes that can 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 him anyway. We trust in personality. He’s like anything: he’s still a young person, he’s still a young man coming to this country. You have to adapt to the club. But we’ll help him with that and his personality is one where you’re like, ‘Oh, I have no worries for him.’
“He is a fighter. I think he understands how lucky he is. He fights for the team. He has courage, he is open-minded. If you are playing as Argentina’s number 6 and you are playing the big games that he has played in at his age, and with the quality that he has shown, it is not easy to have those attributes”.
Ziyech was furious after his move collapsed because Chelsea failed to send the correct paperwork to PSG. The Moroccan has returned to 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 is hoping to have Reece James, Ben Chilwell, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Raheem Sterling back from injury against Fulham. Wesley Fofana, Armando Broja, Denis Zakaria, N’Golo Kanté, Mateo Kovacic and Christian Pulisic are still out.