Trevoh Chalobah was one of the Chelsea players who had to wait for his chance to impress Graham Potter, but when handed that opportunity following Wesley Fofana’s injury, the defender has grabbed it with both hands.
Chalobah hasn’t missed a minute of action since he replaced Fofana 38 minutes into our home victory over AC Milan on 5 October, flitting between a back three and a back four, and even different positions within those roles. He was the central defender at Brentford, for example, having been on the right of the three against Aston Villa.
That the Blues haven’t conceded in his time on the pitch under Potter is testament to his assuredness, positional awareness and strength and speed, and it is no surprise some media reports have speculated on a possible call-up to the England team in recent days. Potter had his say today.
‘I’ve been very impressed from day one,’ the head coach emphasised.
‘He wasn’t in for the first couple of games, but acted perfectly: trained really well, very professional, very determined. He’s an impressive character, very focused on his football.
‘He’s a bit of a soldier. He’s played in all the games, we’re having some problems in terms of availability for players, but he’s stood up, stood in and he’s performing at a really good level.
‘I’m not surprised he’s got that link but thankfully it’s not my problem, it’s someone else’s,’ added Potter of the England rumours.
‘He’s playing every week for us but that’s a decision for Gareth [Southgate] to make, not me.’
Like Chalobah, Potter was a defender in his playing days, a left-back who enjoyed a solid if, by his own admission, unspectacular career.
One of the undoubted highlights came during his solitary season in the Premier League in 1996/97, when he came off the bench for the final 20 minutes of Southampton’s memorable 6-3 win over the Premier League champions Manchester United. It turned out to be the only one of his eight top-flight appearances that ended in a victory.
‘I changed the game!’ laughed Potter when asked about it at his press conference today.
‘It was turning towards Manchester United and then I came on and it flipped towards us! I think that’s what happened…
‘Thankfully we didn’t lose the game while I got on, that’s the bigger worry for me. It was one of those days you get at the Dell. Historically they didn’t like the Dell that much. The previous season it wasn’t great with the shirt change [the visitors switched shirts halfway through a 3-1 defeat].
‘Matt Le Tissier was on fire, Eyal Berkovic scored a really good goal, it was one of those fantastic performances. Roy Keane got sent off which might have helped. It was a great day for us and not a good one for them.’
Fast forwarding some 26 years, Potter is preparing to face Man United for a second time this season having already got the better of them with Brighton on the opening day.
‘A lot has changed,’ acknowledged our manager about tomorrow's opponents since that success at Old Trafford.
‘They have changed a little bit in how they build up. There are a bit more longer balls, a bit more direct, and at the same time they have the same quality, the threats of Rashford, Antony, Sancho. Bruno Fernandes plays a key role for them.
‘There are a lot of similarities but they have adapted to the competition and each other. They are probably learning more about each other, it’s a normal process.
‘I had been at Brighton for three years when we played and Erik had been at Man United six weeks, if that. There is a lot of learning you have to go through, which is normal, and because they have the quality then naturally they will get better and better as time goes.
‘I have huge respect for Ten Hag and the job he’s done in his career and qualities as a coach. You can see people adapt and adjust as they go into the competition phase. They didn’t have a great start but they’ve battled back and they’re getting points and playing well. They are galvanising into a top team. It’s a tough game, an exciting game, and a fantastic game to be involved in.’