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Daniel Levy’s Imaginary (Managerial) Shortlist: Graham Potter

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Brighton are in 17th, so why is Graham Potter the best available option for Spurs? Because in this house, we trust the process.

Tottenham Hotspur v Brighton & Hove Albion - Premier League

To: daniel.levy@tottenhamhotspur.com
From: cartilagefree@gmail.com
Subject: Let us help you! (Manager search)

Hi, Daniel,

I heard you read all the emails. Please read this email and hire Graham Potter. I’ll start with a little fact for you: If Brighton converted their chances for and against as efficiently as Tottenham Hotspur do - you know, if Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min were getting on the end of chances rather than Neal Maupay and Danny Welbeck - Brighton would be second in the Premier League in goal differential.

As Gus Poyet put it arguing with Jamie Carragher earlier this year: the manager can only control what happens between the boxes and for the most part, once you get in the box, you have to rely on the “guy upstairs.”

By that metric, Potter is about as good as they come, elevating good but unspectacular players to one of the best expected goal differentials in the league. Can it really be bad luck if it lasts this long you might ask? Well, call up your Super League buddies at Liverpool and see how well ignoring a bad run of luck at Dortmund worked out for them.

Trust the process and hire Graham Potter.

-Joel Wertheimer
Cartilage Free Captain

The Basics

Name: Graham Potter
Age: 45
Team: Brighton
Nationality: England(!)
Elo +/-: +189

The Specifics

Trophies:

Worst performance vs. xG you’ll never sing that. He also won the 2017 Svenska Cupen with Östersund.

Tactics:

Potter’s teams play press and possess soccer and utilize positional play principles. Potter is quite flexible in terms of formation, last year alternating between a 4-4-2 and a back three, and this year sticking mostly with the back three. Regardless of the formation, the tactics largely remain the same. Brighton are 5th in the league in passes per defensive action, i.e., they press aggressively and try to win the ball back. Brighton are also 6th in the league in passes per defensive action against.

Brighton try to create overloads with the ball to keep possession and then progress the ball through their wingbacks, with Tariq Lamptey in particular being used this season to drive the ball forward.

Strengths:

Potter has improved Brighton measurably, and seems to coach possession and pressing extremely well. Brighton not only press actively, but have one of the highest successful pressing rates in the league. Brighton are also successfully pressured at quite low rates. They create many chances from the cutback positions and do not concede a large number of big chances.

Not only have Brighton been quite good, Potter was incredibly successful at Ostersund, taking the team to its highest heights before they went straight back to their old level after he left. He clearly trusts his process.

The team keeps playing hard for him week after week despite a real string of bad luck that might make many teams question the manager. I think it speaks well of the buy-in he gets.

Weaknesses:

Well. Let’s start with the things that aren’t the big elephant in the room. Potter’s Brighton are kinda boring. They’re good and they press and then they just...keep the ball. They pass the ball around the back. Last year they were extra boring. It’s aesthetically decent boring, but definitely boring. His Swansea team similarly kept possession well but did not turn it into much before he left for Brighton, and in fact got quite a bit worse, but he seemed to be changing the style of play before moving on. It’s possible, like Mikel Arteta with Arsenal, we might have to put up with some pretty dull soccer for awhile before getting to the good stuff.

The other thing is that the expected goals, in both seasons at Brighton, have not matched the goals. Brighton have an xG differential of +13 and a goal differential of -6. Watching them, I cannot see anything that looks like a systemic issue that is being missed. It’s just that they keep missing good chances. But should he be adjusting for that fact with his personnel or is he right to trust regression to the mean is real and this is the best chance they have? It’s hard to tell.

The Verdict

Likeliness of being hired

Reasonably likely. Most likely Premier League manager on the board for Spurs. All signs point to Erik ten Hag right now but after him, I could see Potter being the guy.

Grade if Hired: A

Potter has coached Brighton for two years now and has improved them significantly. He improved Ostersund Last year, they were a bottom middle of the table squad and this year they’re a top half of the table level squad. The talent on the pitch is playing above their ability and the finishing gods hate Brighton. I truly do not believe there is anything special about Potter that xG is simply missing. Spurs have been crying out for a manager that can coach possession and pressing again and the talent matches. Spurs have their own finishing gods up front and the combination of the two could be lethal.