Footballing Weekly: Contrasting fortunes of Erik ten Hag and Graham Potter

Man United manager earned success with his decisiveness, while Potter struggles amid uncertainties in Chelsea

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag (left) and Chelsea manager Graham Potter. (PHOTO: Getty Images)
Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag (left) and Chelsea manager Graham Potter. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — They arrived at their new English Premier League (EPL) clubs with good reputations, but the fortunes of Manchester United's Erik ten Hag and Chelsea's Graham Potter could not have been more different.

While ten Hag has quickly revitalised the Red Devils, leading them to the Carabao Cup triumph on Sunday (26 February), Potter is rapidly losing the support of the Blues fans after winning only two out of the past 15 games in all competitions.

Chelsea are mired in 10th spot on the EPL table, 14 points adrift of a Champions League qualifying spot. While their struggles had started under previous manager Thomas Tuchel, many had been optimistic that Potter would turn this around following his appointment in September last year.

After, the Englishman had turned Brighton from a newly-promoted side into a sleek outfit capable of beating any of the top clubs. There were also relative successes in his previous clubs Ostersund and Swansea City.

Yet, while managing the expensively-assembled Chelsea squad is a significant step up for Potter, he did not do himself any favours by not stamping his authority and decisiveness upon replacing Tuchel. Instead, he chopped and changed players as well as formations constantly, making a staggering 75 changes to his starting line-up since taking over the Blues.

The result is a disjointed side that, even with the recent expensive signings such as Enzo Fernandez and Mykhailo Mudryk, were unable to build cohesive attacks. The fact they scored just one goal last month was indicative of the team's malaise.

Can Potter turn things around? One hopes so, but one suspects he does not have much time left to find a solution to Chelsea's woes.

In contrast, ten Hag has just bought himself plenty of time and goodwill, after landing Man United's first trophy in six years with the 2-0 Carabao Cup final with over Newcastle.

In a mere seven months, the Dutchman has transformed the Red Devils from laughing stock following a 0-4 thrashing by Brentford in August into a formidable outfit capable of going on long unbeaten runs.

One clear reason for ten Hag's success is his uncompromising and clear decision making all season. Tactics are either followed to the tee, or the player is dropped. Cristiano Ronaldo complains to the media, and he is summarily dismissed. Top scorer Marcus Rashford was late after he overslept, and he was dropped from the starting line-up. There would be no fooling around under ten Hag.

And it has worked wonders. Players know exactly what is required from them, and ten Hag was able to shape them quickly into a cohesive unit. With the Cup win, belief is coursing through the squad, with players knowing that they are on the right track to more success.

Decisiveness is key when a manager enters a highly-reputable club with star players. Ten Hag laid down the rules and swiftly eliminated those who did not follow; Potter remains unsure of his best line-up or formation.

The result is clear for all to see. One team is on its way up, the other is in a freefall.

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