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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

No rest for Mauricio Pochettino as Chelsea face crucial close season

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London — As the dust settles on another Premier League season, most managers will be switching off for a few weeks of relaxation before planning for the next campaign. But for new Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino the work starts immediately.

When the Argentine opens the door to his plush office at Chelsea’s Cobham training ground he will find his in-tray already overflowing.

Chelsea’s 12th-placed finish in the Premier League was their worst since 1994 — hardly what new co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali imagined when they swept in after the sudden collapse of the Roman Abramovich empire.

They have sanctioned around £600million worth of spending to super-size a squad that has proved far less than the sum of its very expensive parts.

Results have been so disappointing that two managers were sacked this season — Champions League winning Thomas Tuchel in September and Graham Potter, the man Boehly said fitted his “vision” for the club, after only 31 games.

Club great Frank Lampard steered the listing ship to the end of the season as interim manager, but he managed only one win in his nine league games in charge.

No blame will be attached to Lampard, but for American Boehly, the appointment of the man known in the British media as “Poch” simply has to work.

Which is why the close-season recess will be crucial for the west London club if they are to re-establish themselves as potential challengers to Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United and even Newcastle United next season.

On the plus side for former Tottenham Hotspur and Paris Saint-Germain coach Pochettino, he takes over with the club at such a low ebb that logic suggests things can only get better.

But he still faces many challenges to make that happen.

Firstly, he must forge a workable team in his own image from a bloated squad that needs serious pruning in the coming weeks as the club seeks to lower its wage bill.

Pochettino was widely praised for his work at Tottenham where he revived a similarly under-performing club and turned them into title contenders and Champions League finalists, although he left without winning any silverware.

The former Argentina defender is known for his pro-active, high-pressing football and looks tailor-made for the task at Stamford Bridge, but he will need to fill the holes left by the club’s scatter-gun approach to player recruitment.

Bizarrely, despite all the lavish spending, Chelsea failed to address its lack of a top-quality striker, and they have also not really replaced central defender Antonio Rudiger.

Central midfield dynamo N’Golo Kante is no longer the force he was, while Mason Mount is reportedly close to leaving the club despite supporters wanting him to stay.

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Pochettino must also get the most out of his young compatriot, World Cup-winning midfielder Enzo Fernandez, who was signed for a British record £106million but who has found himself mired in the mediocrity around him.

Most of all, Pochettino will want full control of everything that goes on the pitch, and he won’t welcome the hands-on approach Boehly demonstrated during Potter’s short reign.

So while Chelsea appear to have landed the ideal man to lift them out of the hole they have dug themselves — much to the chagrin of Tottenham fans who assumed he would return to north London — the clock is already ticking and there is no time to waste.


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