With his takeover of Chelsea FC, Mauricio Pochettino has accepted a position that could hardly be more challenging. There are numerous problem areas to be tackled.
When Mauricio Pochettino officially started work at Chelsea FC in early July, he said: “We can promise to work hard and defend this shirt to the end. We will do everything we can to make our fans proud and show that it is we really, really care about.”
Clearly he has no illusions about the magnitude of the task ahead. The completion of a total restructuring awaits him. There is no grace period, because it is important to give the association an identity and new impetus after an unprecedented clear-cut. Pochettino could be the ideal coaching solution, but just what has the Argentine gotten himself into?
SPOX and GOAL outlines the top five tasks Pochettino faces after taking office in west London.
Mauricio Pochettino must drive Chelsea’s sell-off
After a slow start, the sell-off at Chelsea has picked up speed since the end of June. The west Londoners are desperate to rebalance their 2022/23 transfer tally before July is over.
Co-sporting directors Paul Winstanley and Laurence Stewart had their hands full. They sold eight players in a very short time.
Edouard Mendy, Kalidou Koulibaly and N’Golo Kanté went to Saudi Arabia, while Kai Havertz, Mason Mount and Mateo Kovačić have joined Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City respectively in the Premier League. Ruben Loftus-Cheek has accepted a new challenge in Italy with AC Milan, while Cesar Azpilicueta has joined Atlético Madrid.
It’s unclear how much of an impact Pochettino has had so far, but he will surely be more involved in the next phase of the sell-off. In fact, he will probably have a lot to do.
In addition, Callum Hudson-Odoi would like to change and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should be released. Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic (for AC Milan) will most likely leave Stamford Bridge. Romelu Lukaku could also change.
Chelsea: Mauricio Pochettino has to create cohesion
The ‘clearing out’ of the squad was and is necessary, but given the departure of experienced players one can also worry about the identity of the club. Pochettino is also in a new environment – but he will need to quickly understand what it means to represent Chelsea and what mentality it takes to succeed at Stamford Bridge before he can pass that knowledge on to his side.
The next step will be to foster the sense of togetherness and synergy that has been the backbone of success for so many blues teams over the years.
Judging from his first interview in the service of the blues, Pochettino is well aware of it. “We have to build a team that shows cohesion, that cares about the club and the fans and that fights for the badge to the end,” he said. “That’s the most important thing. The fans have to feel that all the players are dying for the club. That’s the most important thing to create a good feeling and to be proud of the others.”
Chelsea: Mauricio Pochettino must choose a new captain
Who will lead Chelsea on the pitch in the 2023/24 season? With Azpilicueta’s departure to Atletico Madrid, Chelsea have lost both their captain and vice-captain in seven months – Jorginho joined Arsenal FC in January.
Therefore, before the new season, Pochettino needs to identify the new leaders on the pitch. The problem is that the departures mean that the choice of veteran players who know the club and have internalized its identity is limited.
On paper, Thiago Silva – who has worn the armband in the past – and homegrown Reece James (at the club since 2006) seem the most obvious options. Raheem Sterling, Conor Gallagher and Ben Chilwell are likely to be considered underdogs. It will be interesting to see which direction Pochettino will take.
Despite his pleasant demeanor in front of the cameras, Pochettino is known for his tough approach to pre-season. He pushes his players to the limit to achieve optimal fitness for his style of play, including pressing and lots of fast runs.
It has been reported that the players will have to complete a grueling two-week fitness regimen that will likely also include one of the Argentine’s favorite methods, the ‘gacon test’ – a 45-second pendulum run where the distances increase each time become.
That’s exactly what the squad needs to get in shape. Caretaker manager Frank Lampard hinted at the end of last season that many players simply weren’t fit enough. Throughout the 2022/23 season, Chelsea have struggled with injury issues.
Part of that is likely due to Lampard and his predecessor Graham Potter having to work with a bloated 31-man squad.
Chelsea: Mauricio Pochettino still needs meaningful reinforcements
It was clear that Chelsea would lose numerous players who had good offers and who were considered expendable. Just days after the transfer window opened on July 1, the Londoners had done a great job. However, some departures will (have to) be added: Levi Colwill, Malang Sarr, Ethan Ampadu, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech, Romelu Lukaku and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, to name just the biggest names.
But in a few corners, the squad actually needs reinforcement and more experience. Brighton’s Moises Caicedo is set to move into central midfield – he could then play alongside Enzo Fernandez.
Chelsea may also be looking for a new striker. If no transfer should take place, Christopher Nkunku, recently brought in from Leipzig, will probably take on this role.