As Chelsea fans poured out of Stamford Bridge into the streets of London following Saturday’s narrow victory against Leeds, a group of supporters could be heard ironically chanting: “We’ve scored a goal!”
It is gallows humour for a club used to challenging towards the top end of the table, but the fact a first goal at home since 15 January was being celebrated in such a manner shows where the Blues are right now.
The win against Leeds was only Chelsea’s third in 16 games, and while it will help ease the pressure on boss Graham Potter, it will need to be followed by a big performance against Borussia Dortmund in their Champions League last-16 second leg on Tuesday night to suggest the former Brighton manager has turned a corner.
Potter refused to describe it as a turning point in the post-match news conference.
“It’s a nice three points, an important three points,” he said. “It’s good for confidence and morale. The boys have been suffering because they care. The supporters have been suffering too.
“The win gives us a chance to recover for a massive game on Tuesday.”
An overdue goal but ‘problems still there’
Wesley Fofana’s second-half strike against Leeds ended a run of 396 minutes without Chelsea scoring.
They had plenty of chances to add more in a particularly impressive opening 30 minutes as Kai Havertz was denied one-on-one, Joao Felix hit the bar and Ben Chilwell fired wide when it was easier to score.
When Fofana netted there was an outpouring of relief around Stamford Bridge, which was followed by a sense of frustration as Chelsea failed to build on it and instead found themselves hanging on against a Leeds side who have won away just once this season.
Former Manchester City midfielder Michael Brown said on BBC Radio 5 Live: “It wasn’t convincing.
“They have done some good things with tempo but they should have been more clinical.”
“The problems are still there,” added BBC pundit and former Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy.
“Chelsea are going to struggle because they don’t look like they are going to score goals.”
Since the beginning of November Chelsea have scored just seven goals in the Premier League – only Everton have managed fewer.
A negative manager? Some fans remain unconvinced
Speaking to some supporters leaving the ground after the game, they are unsure Potter is the man to take Chelsea forward, particularly with the squad he has at his disposal.
The Blues spent almost £300m in January, including breaking the British record to sign Argentina midfielder Enzo Fernandez for £107m, but none of the new arrivals have been able to improve Chelsea’s goalscoring.
“We have good players, they just need to be put in the right position,” Blues fan Jo O’Gorman told BBC Sport. “Potter is very negative and it showed with his substitutions [against Leeds].
“He is a good manager but he is not an elite manager. He cannot take us any further.”
Chelsea supporter Paul Stephens added: “He took Sterling and Felix off and put on two midfielders. I know you have to hold on for the win but there are ways to do it.
“If Mourinho or Tuchel was manager this set of players we would be 100% better.”
Potter was an animated presence on the touchline against Leeds – something he hasn’t always appeared – and certainly showed he is determined to prove himself at Chelsea and win over those fans who are unconvinced he is the right man for the job.
“Talk is cheap,” he said.
“I firmly believe in the players and the team but I also acknowledge that the results haven’t been good enough and that is my responsibility. So any criticism is absolutely fair and warranted.
“We have to take it, try to improve, and win. That is the job.”
If Potter can follow Saturday’s win by overturning a 1-0 deficit against Borussia Dortmund and keep Chelsea in the Champions League, then he may well come through what has been a hugely testing start to his managerial career at Stamford Bridge.