Three things Graham Potter got right as Chelsea squeeze past Salzburg
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Chelsea have qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League following their 2-1 win over Red Bull Salzburg – but boy was it a slog!
Goals from Mateo Kovacic and Kai Havertz made the difference as the Blues battled to their third European victory in a row under Graham Potter, with the win taking them five points clear at the top of Group E (for now at least).
But how did Potter fare in just the fourth Champions League tie of his career? Well, here, Daily Star Sport has run through the three things he got right and two he got wrong in Salzburg.
Starting with what he got right:
READ MORE: Peter Schmeichel can't help but laugh as he checks out half-naked Mateo Kovacic
Using wingers as wing-backs
It's not be especially 'sexy' – particularly for the players involved – but Potter's decision to use both Raheem Sterling and Christian Pulisic as wing-backs this evening really paid off.
It meant that Chelsea effectively had five attackers jabbing away at Salzburg's tightly-packed backline, allowing for plenty of numerical overloads, particularly in the half space.
Sterling and Pulisic might not be too happy playing this role every week, but Potter made the right call on the night.
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A solid defensive structure
Chelsea set up in their usual 3-4-3 formation, but off the ball it was a different story.
Conor Gallagher, who got the nod ahead of Mason Mount tonight, slotted in alongside Jorginho and Kovacic when Salzburg were in possession to give the Blues a solid three-man structure in midfield, eliminating space for their opponents to launch counter-attacks.
Potter prides himself on not being married to one particular system or formation, and tonight demonstrated how effective that philosophy can be.
Faith in Havertz
Kai Havertz is something of an enigma. He flip-flops between incredible and indifferent, though over the past few weeks has spent far more time as the latter, and after netting just two league goals in 14 appearances so far this season, few could've blamed Potter for dropping him.
But tonight proved that patience pays off, with Havertz curling a fabulous effort into the top corner to put Chelsea back in front minutes after Salzburg's second half equaliser.
The goal won the game, and it was certainly worthy of doing so.
And now for what Potter got wrong:
Starting Aubameyang over Broja
Starting a tried-and-tested goal machine over a youngster with less than 90 minutes of Champions League experience under his belt makes sense on paper, but Potter really missed a trick by picking Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang over Armando Broja.
Aubameyang has been well off the pace in recent weeks and seems to have lost much of his natural instinct in front of goal – demonstrated by several great chances the Gabon international spurned this evening.
Broja on the other hand has been brimming with confidence after grabbing his first league goal for the club earlier this month and Chelsea could've been out of sight if they had Broja's pace, power and hunger from the get-go tonight.
Up until tonight Mason Mount had started every single one of Potter's eight games in charge, but was left on the bench in favour of Conor Gallagher.
It may have simply been a case of giving the two-time Chelsea Player of the Year a rest, but boy did the Blues miss his ingenuity, especially on the edge of the box.
For all their possession, Chelsea weren't particularly penetrative and were calling out for an incisive difference-maker all evening. In the end it didn't matter much, but Potter will think twice about dropping Mount for an important game again.
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- Chelsea FC
- Champions League
- Graham Potter
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