Premier League returns: Chelsea's mid-season review
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Chelsea manager Graham Potter has explained his decision to substitute Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the second half of Thursday’s defeat to Manchester City, despite the striker coming on as a sub earlier in the game. Aubameyang shook his head upon seeing his number held aloft and barely acknowledged the boss before taking his spot back on the bench.
Chelsea broadly gave as good as they got at home to City, almost capitalising on a lacklustre first-half display from Pep Guardiola’s side as Carney Chukwuemeka struck the base of the post. The young midfielder came on as an early substitute along with Aubameyang after injuries to Raheem Sterling and Christian Pulisic.
Guardiola tinkered at the interval and City came out a different side, with Grealish sending in a low cross that was poked in by Riyad Mahrez just after the hour mark. The Blues rallied as Potter dragged Aubameyang off again and introduced youngsters Omari Hutchinson and Lewis Hall, but they couldn’t find an equaliser.
After the game, Potter was grilled on his call to withdraw Aubameyang – a decision which visibly angered the former Arsenal frontman.
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“He came on after one minute and hadn’t played for a while,” Potter told reporters. “He put in a shift for us and I thought he did his bit for the team. He fatigued a bit so we thought we needed a bit of energy and the subs brought that.
“I haven’t had time to speak to him in depth but he understands. Players want to help the team and it’s a decision that had to be made. He gave everything for the team. That was the decision.”
Aubameyang was signed by former manager Thomas Tuchel during the summer transfer window but the German was sacked days after it closed, leaving the Gabonese forward in limbo. The 33-year-old has only scored once in the Premier League with Kai Havertz generally preferred through the middle, despite his underwhelming strike rate.
Potter is facing more tough questions after Thursday’s result with Chelsea taking six points from the last 24 available. Leaving home turf empty-handed means they are still 10 points off the Champions League spots and well short of the position fans had hoped for after their mighty summer transfer spree.
“The situation that we’re in… to think about what’s going to happen in five months’ time [regarding Champions League qualification] is the wrong path for us,” he added. “We have to just focus on the next game, stay together as a team and move forward.
“No [it’s not good enough]. If you just analyse points in the amount of games then it’s hard for me to argue against it. There are factors you have to consider. That’s a narrow defeat to Man City. We’ve been narrowly beaten by Arsenal and Newcastle.”
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