GRAHAM POTTER’S Chelsea hardly excite the nation’s pants.
But while the new Stamford Bridge boss doesn’t possess Jose Mourinho’s charisma, he certainly shares the Portuguese’s love of a clean sheet.
Mourinho has won titles for this club built on an average defense and Potter builds from the back as he works his way into elite level management.
It was a fifth successive shutout for Blues goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga – signed for a world record £71million four years ago and finally starting to meet that sky-high transfer fee as he made a few nice saves from Ivan Toney of Brentford. .
But while the Chelsea defense is such a solid crew under Potter, they fail to ignite the world up front.
Potter benched Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang and Raheem Sterling as he made five changes from the weekend win at Aston Villa, and ended up suffering frustration in a West London derby that s collapsed depressingly.
Conor Gallagher, a player with outside hopes of making Gareth Southgate’s World Cup squad, was forced into an early limp and Armando Broja failed to complete his first Premier League start for the Blues.
Thomas Frank’s Bees were the most effective team for long stretches and they certainly never suffer from an inferiority complex when coming up against one of the Big Six.
A Chelsea victory could have propelled them a point behind Manchester City and straight into the title race, but they have rarely threatened to smash a Brentford side who stubbornly defend and attack with their navigation system set for the first route.
After six games unbeaten and five straight wins, the Chelsea boss spun his potter’s wheel and rested Sterling, Aubameyang and Thiago Silva.
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Broja, a darling of Chelsea fans, secured his first Premier League start for the club after a successful loan spell at Southampton last season.
It all felt like a high-risk strategy on a ground where big clubs have generally struggled since Brentford’s rise to the Premier League last season.
And Chelsea were just under the cosh, Brentford, direct, dynamic and dominant.
Toney was waved by a static Kalidou Koulibaly but took a heavy touch and was forced.
Then Toney’s header from a Mads Roerslev cross was knocked down by Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Chelsea survived a bombardment from a series of corners and then Ruben Loftus-Cheek, operating at right-back, was lucky to survive a penalty shout when he appeared to shove Bryan Mbeumo, but the referee Jarred Gillett and VAR Michael Salisbury were not interested. .
Conor Gallagher was sent off with an early injury and replaced by Mateo Kovacic as Potter’s men struggled to settle into any rhythm.
Gradually, however, the visitors found a foothold and when Cesar Azpilicueta fired in a cross from the right, Broja should have scored but was unable to put a header on it.
Frank Onyeka nutmegs a cumbersome Koulibaly but fails to land a shot.
Then Bees keeper David Reya fired a free kick forward, Loftus-Cheek blundered with a backward header and Toney’s header forced a close range save from Kepa.
Chelsea had their moments, however, with Broja latching onto a long ball, flipping Ben Mee inside out and weak drive from Azpilicueta soon forcing a sprawling save from Reya.
Broja, who looked increasingly dangerous, destroyed Mee for pace but fired through the goal.
Chelsea’s improvement has a lot to do with excellent left-back Marc Cucurella and Kovacic interrupting play well and making fetch passes.
But early in the second half, Mbeumo squandered a magnificent free header from a Mathias Jensen cross, which he sent straight down Kepa’s throat.
With Brentford still under great pressure, Potter made a triple substitution – Sterling, Christian Pulisic and Carney Chukwuemeka replacing Broja, Cucurella and Mount.
Kai Havertz, who looked puffed up in the No.10 role, was pushed to the top but Chelsea lacked imagination and struggled to break down their hosts.
From a through ball from Pulisic, Havertz drilled in a shot which Reya fended off – and Brentford made the break, Mbeumo tried to lob Kepa from 45 yards out, but the Chelsea keeper was able to fire it comfortably.
But the Bees still felt like the more likely scorers – Rico Henry shooting into the side netting and Toney rounding Kepa but failing to shoot properly.
Aubameyang arrived for the final stages but Chelsea were banging their heads against a brick wall.
Pulisic had a snap that Reya failed to hold back and deep in added time Chukwuemeka forced a fine save from Brentford No1.
But overall it was a night to forget.
And one night for Potter to realize that maybe he didn’t have the strength to turn too much, too often.