Graham Potter explains why Raheem Sterling’s form has ‘suffered’ at Chelsea as star’s attitude praised
Blues boss Potter hailed Sterling for returning from the World Cup in a positive, focused mood, especially after the disruption caused by the break-in at his family home.
Sterling left the England camp to check on his family’s safety before returning to Qatar for the end of the World Cup campaign, but is now back on Chelsea duty.
Chelsea will restart their Premier League program by hosting Bournemouth on Tuesday, with Sterling among a nucleus of players itching to hit top form at Stamford Bridge. And new boss Potter shouldered the responsibility for helping the likes of Sterling hit their peak.
“Raheem has come into a new team that has lost some key players over the summer, brought some new ones in, and then the manager has changed,” said Potter.
“So the team from a functioning perspective has not functioned as well as I think it can. Raheem and all the players have suffered from that.
“It would be wrong of me to say that Raheem has been at the absolute top of his game, but he is not the only one. It is my responsibility to help the team function better so that he can play better, because he has got quality and is a top player.”
Asked about Sterling’s general welfare after the break-in, Potter added: “Raheem’s good, as well as he can be.
“Sadly this isn’t the first instance of this kind of thing happening. There’s nothing we can do about that specifically now, but we will make sure he’s as secure as possible with his family.
“The World Cup experience for him was positive, he enjoyed it. He’s come back just like the rest, focused and looking forward to the game, and knowing we can all do better, perform better, so he’s itching to try to do that.”
Reece James missed the World Cup with a knee injury but is back in Chelsea training and approaching full sharpness.
Potter admitted James proved his class once again even in his Chelsea absence, tipping the 23-year-old to shine again as club football gets back into swing.
“Well, Reece has been training a few weeks now and that obviously helps,” said Potter.
“The tough time is when you can’t play football because you’re injured, and obviously if there’s a World Cup going on it’s a reminder even more so of what you’re missing.
Reece James Returns To Chelsea Training
“So for him the best thing is he’s playing football, the World Cup’s finished now, and he can just concentrate on playing.
“I thought he was in a really good place before he got injured. If you look at how the team’s functioned before he got injured and afterwards, it’s not the only reason of course, but Reece is a top, top player.
“And when he’s not with us it’s a miss, so the plan now is to try to help him play his minutes. The next challenge for us is building him up in the Premier League, which is not the ideal place to do that.
“But he’s got the capacity to do it, we’ve just got to be clear and careful with the minutes he plays. I’m confident that the more football he plays we’ll see what a fantastic player he really is.”