Potter hot favourite to replace sacked Tuchel at Chelsea

Brighton's English manager Graham Potter applauds at the end of the English Premier League football match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Leicester City at the American Express Community Stadium in Brighton, southern England on 4 September, 2022AFP

Brighton and Hove Albion boss Graham Potter is odds-on favourite to take over at Chelsea following the surprise sacking of manager Thomas Tuchel just seven games into the season.

Potter, the former Swansea City and Ostersunds coach, held talks with the Stamford Bridge hierarchy on Wednesday after Brighton gave the 47-year-old permission to meet them, British media reports said.

Potter, who has been touted as a future England manager, has won many admirers for his attractive playing style and has Brighton sitting fourth in the early Premier League table despite operating on a small budget.

The Englishman could be in place as early as Chelsea's derby at Fulham on Saturday, reports said.

Tuchel was axed on Wednesday despite the German coach leading Chelsea to Champions League glory in 2021 and dealing with the fallout from the turbulent end to former owner Roman Abramovich's reign.

Chelsea, bought by Todd Boehly's consortium in late May, defended the timing of the decision, which is understood to have been agreed before a shock 1-0 loss at Dinamo Zagreb in their Champions League group stage opener on Tuesday.

"As the new ownership group reaches 100 days since taking over the club, and as it continues its hard work to take the club forward, the new owners believe it is the right time to make this transition," Chelsea said in a statement.

'Everything is missing'

Boehly has followed Abramovich's playbook in acting quickly to fire managers after a slump in results.

Tuchel leaves with Chelsea sixth in the Premier League after six matches, three points adrift of the top four.

Chelsea's Germa coach Thomas Tuchel (L) reacts as Dinamo Zagreb's Croatian head coach Ante Cacic (R) looks on during the UEFA Champions League Group E football match between Dinamo Zagreb (CRO) and Chelsea (ENG) at The Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb on 6 September 2022.

The former Paris Saint-Germain boss, who was in charge at Stamford Bridge for less than 20 months, had cut a frustrated figure when he admitted "everything is missing" after Tuesday's embarrassing loss to Dinamo.

Reports said Tuchel's relationships with his players had deteriorated and that he clashed with the owners over his refusal to countenance a move for Manchester United's veteran star Cristiano Ronaldo.

Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard in January 2021, immediately adding steel and focus to an underperforming squad.

The 49-year-old steered Chelsea to their second Champions League triumph four months later, with a 1-0 win over Manchester City in Porto.

Day later his contract was extended by two years. But Chelsea hit stormy waters on and off the pitch last season.

Abramovich announced he was selling the club in March, shortly before he was hit with UK sanctions, with the government describing him as part of Russian President Vladimir Putin's inner circle.

Despite the off-field distractions, Tuchel guided Chelsea to the League Cup and FA Cup finals, losing both on penalties to Liverpool, won the Club World Cup and finished third in the Premier League.

Boehly's consortium paid a world-record fee of £4.25 billion ($4.9 billion) for a sports franchise to buy Chelsea from Abramovich.

The new owners backed Tuchel in the recent transfer window, with more than £250 million reportedly spent on players including Raheem Sterling, Kalidou Koulibaly, Marc Cucurella, Wesley Fofana and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

But so far the heavy spending has not paid dividends, with damaging defeats against Leeds and Southampton before a nightmare start to their Champions League campaign in Zagreb.