By Robert O'Connor, PA
Graham Potter said he feels the pain of Chelsea supporters after some fans called for him to leave at the end of his side’s 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa.
Boos rang around Stamford Bridge as Potter’s side fell to a fourth home loss since the manager took charge in September, a result which saw them slip below Villa into the Premier League’s bottom half.
Goals in either half from Ollie Watkins and John McGinn were enough to ruin any hope Chelsea had of building on the good form they had found prior to the international break, as once again a lack of goalscoring threat meant promising build-up play was wasted.
Defeat this afternoon.#CheAvl pic.twitter.com/CGV0uaTTJs
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) April 1, 2023
Defender Marc Cucurella was at fault as Watkins gave the visitors the lead after 18 minutes, but it was a brilliant 30-yard strike from McGinn that buried the hosts’ attempts at a fightback, curling into the bottom corner after the Blues defence had failed to clear a set-piece.
Thereafter Chelsea struggled to rediscover the attacking fluency they had enjoyed in the first half, slipping to a defeat that had some voices near the dugout demanding the manager’s removal.
“I thought the team gave everything,” said Potter.
“The intention of the team was there. You can tell by how many times we got in their box, the shots we had. There was a positive intent but the scoreline is painful for us.
“Today is a bit of a setback, of course it is. We can feel the pain of the supporters. We have to dust ourselves down and go again for Tuesday.
“I understand when you lose at home, the emotion of the game is such that people are going to be disappointed and frustrated and angry. Where we are in the league table, no one’s happy with. Whatever criticism comes I have to accept.
“We got into some good opportunities from an attacking perspective. We won the ball back high. We had a one v one with Misha (Mykhailo Mudryk) a couple of times. But it’s an error for the first goal. Whenever there’s an error there’s always something you can do better.
“We’ve got no time to feel sorry for ourselves. We have to respond. We have to prepare for another big game.”
Chelsea face Liverpool at home on Tuesday as they look to cling to the coattails of the sides above them chasing European qualification.
Defeat to Villa leaves them five points adrift of a guaranteed European place, with any hope of reaching the Champions League now almost entirely resting on winning this year’s competition.
Yet the manger insisted that, despite the slide down the league, his side are taking positive steps towards turning the situation around.
“If you look at the stats, apart from the most important stat, there’s a lot there that says we did a lot well,” said Potter.
“Ultimately, the two boxes are the most important area, and that’s where we’ve come short.
“The first half, we’ve had a couple of opportunities but obviously the goal is a blow for us. We need to do better than that in that situation. Of course it’s difficult then, you’re 1-0 down at home.
“The one today was a strike from the edge of the box. It’s probably not that big a chance. It’s a great strike, second phase, edge of the box. These things sometimes can happen.
“Generally we’ve made improvements from the turn of the year, but clearly we need to improve. You only have to look at the league table to see that.”
2020/21: 37 games, 14 goals
2021/22: 35 games, 11 goals
2022/23: 27 games, 10 goals 🆕
Ollie Watkins has hit double figures for goals in all three of his @PremierLeague campaigns with Aston Villa. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/q3oWyeBZTj
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) April 1, 2023
Villa boss Unai Emery was full of praise for Watkins after he continued his fine run of goalscoring form.
The striker has now scored 10 goals this season and has looked rejuvenated since Emery replaced Steven Gerrard in October.
“The first thing is his commitment to practice every day, trying to improve,” said Emery.
“We’re trying to help him to use his characteristics and his skill in our shape. He is very demanding every day to try to practice. We think he can improve.
“As a striker, it’s very difficult to be clinical with every chance they have. He has to be very demanding, following the same way when he is scoring, when he’s not scoring, whether he’s being clinical or not being clinical. That is his mentality.”