Graham Potter’s start to life as Chelsea manager could hardly have gone much worse.
The Blues’ 4-0 FA Cup third-round humbling at Manchester City has increased the pressure on the former Brighton boss as his troubled first few months at Stamford Bridge show no sign of improving.
Sitting 10th in the Premier League after just one win from their last eight matches and now out of both domestic cup competitions, a section of Chelsea’s travelling fans were heard singing the name of former boss Thomas Tuchel and ex-owner Roman Abramovich during their Etihad capitulation.
Former England striker Alan Shearer described the first-half display as “unacceptable”, “embarrassing” and “pathetic”, while Potter himself admitted Chelsea were “clearly suffering as a football club”.
A double from Riyad Mahrez and strikes from Julian Alvarez and Phil Foden were deserved rewards for a dominant display from Manchester City and mean questions about Potter’s future – just four months into his reign – grow louder.
Chelsea sacked Tuchel, who won three trophies in 20 months at Stamford Bridge, in September when the Blues were sixth in the top flight following a summer during which they spent £255m on transfers.
But new owner Todd Boehly’s decision to bring in Potter from Brighton has yet to pay dividends, with the club now 10 points off the Champions League spots.
Chelsea did not manage a shot in a first half that Potter described as “painful”, failing to even vaguely threaten Stefan Ortega’s goal until a Mason Mount shot in the 54th minute that was deflected wide.
Potter, who can point to an injury crisis that kept nine players out of this fixture and led to teenager Bashir Humphreys making his senior debut in defence, said: “The results in a small space of time are not positive.
“You can make excuses and look for reasons or say it isn’t good enough. Both of those answers are correct.
“We have to keep improving and stick together because clearly we are suffering as a football club and it’s not nice at all. But that’s where we are at the moment.
“We can’t do anything apart from do our jobs better and work harder. You understand the supporters’ frustration, we respect that. But our job is to keep working.”
The Premier League champions raced into a 3-0 lead on Sunday, leading the travelling fans to greet the half-time whistle with a loud chorus of jeers.
And, while things marginally improved after the break, Chelsea’s owners are likely to have been left in no doubt about the anger surrounding the club.
Shearer told BBC Sport: “From a Chelsea point of view that first half was not acceptable. I don’t care how many injuries you have, you still have to put a shift in and it’s embarrassing because they haven’t.
“It was nowhere near good enough. Look at their body language, they looked like they don’t want to be there – the energy and leadership has to come from the manager.
“Going forward they were so bad you wouldn’t believe it. They have been nothing short of pathetic in forward positions.
“They have a big week coming up, they have to show more.”
Former Ostersunds FK and Swansea City manager Potter led Brighton to ninth place last season, the highest top-flight finish in the club’s history.
He guided them to fourth in the table this season – after winning four, drawing one and losing one of their first six Premier League games – before joining Chelsea in October.
However, a manager previously mooted as a potential future England boss is coming under increasing pressure after just eight wins from his first 18 matches at Chelsea.
“I would say to Todd Boehly, ‘give him time’,” Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola said. “I know in big clubs, results are important but I’d say give him time.
“The second half is what he is. What he’s done at Brighton is outstanding, but…we need time in the first season. I had (Lionel) Messi in Barcelona my first season so I didn’t need two seasons because Messi was there.”
Shearer agrees with Guardiola, and believes what Chelsea saw in Potter four months ago should still be valid now.
The former Newcastle striker said: “They have to stick with him, it would be crazy to do anything else. They have spent a fortune again but are lacking someone who can put the ball in the back of the net.
“They have to stick together and stick with him and give him time to turn it around. There is a reason they went for him, a reason they took all his staff with him and they have to give him time.”