Mauricio Pochettino has been tasked with a daunting task to lead Chelsea, but there are five things he must do to become a success
Chelsea have appointed Argentine manager Mauricio Pochettino as their permanent head coach to take over from interim boss Frank Lampard, who finally ended his disastrous second spell in charge of the club at the end of the 2022/23 Premier League season.
Lampard’s exit opens a new chapter for the club and their new manager, who now has all summer to plan an assault on the Premier League next season with one of the most expensively assembled sides in the world.
Pochettino must, however, note that Lampard, like the three managers before him, struggled to get the bare minimum out of this group, and the ex-Tottenham manager must make sure not to step on the same banana peels as his predecessors.
With that in mind, here are five things that Pochettino must do to ensure his time at Chelsea is a success.
1. Plan transfers better
This will not be entirely down to Pochettino alone, but the Chelsea squad under Todd Boehly’s ownership has been akin to a toddler arranging a chessboard.
There have been expensive signings with no real purpose in the team, and despite the money spent on numerous signings, Chelsea look like less of a team than when the American took over.
Judging from teams like Manchester City and Arsenal, simply signing players for the sake of it, as potential cash cows for the future is the wrong way to go, or indeed merely to get one over your cross-town rivals Arsenal.
Instead, Chelsea require a more methodical approach to team building by identifying gaps in the team and filling them, rather than having a top-heavy squad that somehow has no striker to call upon or a team with four to six full-backs but only three full-time midfielders.
2. Put his foot down with the board
The last point ties into this as well, since Pochettino will have to deal with the internal politics that have seen Chelsea sign players without too much thought.
Since the higher-ups at the club have already shown a penchant for flamboyant but shallow signings, which has affected the team, the Argentine manager will have to be the one to stamp his authority on signings and reject any moves for players who do not fit into his overall vision for the club.
One of his predecessors, Thomas Tuchel, was reportedly let go after opposing the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United in the summer of 2022, and Pochettino has to be willing to risk the same treatment to get the board in line.
The alternative would be to end up like his immediate predecessor, Graham Potter, who was a darling with the executives for agreeing to every transfer decision while suffering the consequences on the pitch.
3. Rely less on Kai Havertz
One of Chelsea’s main problems this season was in front of goal, where the Blues struggled to convert the few chances that they created.
Chelsea were 11th in the Premier League last season for expected goals, with their 49.4xG ranking below Aston Villa (50.3xG), and relegated Leicester City (50.6xG) as they struggled to create openings for their forwards.
This problem was worsened by the poor finishing of Chelsea’s forwards who were amongst the worst finishers in the Premier League last season.
Chelsea underperformed their expected goals by 12.4, with only relegation-survivors Everton doing worse than them.
In total, Chelsea scored only 37 goals in the Premier League and were gifted an own goal, making the tally of goals that they actually scored themselves so low that it was only one better than Southampton, who scored 36 goals.
Indeed, only four teams scored fewer goals than Chelsea in the campaign, and of those four, only Wolves finished outside the bottom five.
Chief in Chelsea’s profligacy was forward Kai Havertz whose gap of 4.6 between actual goals scored and expected goals was the joint worst in the Premier League along with Leeds’ Patrick Bamford.
Havertz’ catastrophic xG difference is further supported by the fact that he missed twice as many big chances (14) as he scored goals (7) in the league for Chelsea.
Despite his woeful form in front of goal, Havertz was still shockingly chosen as Chelsea’s leading man by the four coaches in charge of the club, allowing him to be the club’s top scorer in the league.
If Pochettino is to succeed at Chelsea, he needs to avoid drinking the same poisoned cool aid that landed his predecessors on the unemployment line.
4. Change the entire midfield bar Enzo Fernandez
The signing of Enzo Fernandez from Benfica for a British record fee following the Argentine’s impressive World Cup showing was meant to bolster Chelsea’s midfield and make the team more formidable.
Instead, the World Cup winner has ended up being Chelsea’s entire midfield all by himself.
A fellow World Cup winner in N’Golo Kante has failed to rediscover his form as he battles niggling injuries, while the sale of Jorginho and Matteo Kovacic’s ongoing injury problems have left the Blues hanging on to Connor Gallagher and Reuben Loftus-Cheek as first-team central midfielders.
Mason Mount, who is reportedly on his way out of the club, often looks out of place the further he is away from goal, while Dennis Zakaria and Carney Chukwuemeka will still need some blooding before they are ready to face the Premier League on a weekly basis.
This leaves Pochettino with a gap to fill in midfield as Loftus-Cheek and Gallagher, for all their endeavour do not appear as though they can be relied on consistently by a club of the stature of Chelsea.
The Blues have been linked to Sporting CP’s Manuel Ugarte, who, as a tough-tackling ball-winner, can be the perfect complement to Enzo Fernandez in a double pivot.
5. Phase out other old guard without issues
As with any new manager at a new club, dealing with who needs to exit the club is as important as who needs to stay or come in.
Chelsea currently claim to have a squad poised for the future, but they still have some players entering the twilight of their careers who need to be moved on in order to make way for the budding youngsters to blossom.
The tricky part of changing guard is knowing when the perfect moment to do it will be, and that is something Pochettino will have to figure out with players like Cesar Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva, Kante, and Kalidou Koulibaly all appearing to be past their physical best.
Their experience within and outside the club could be valuable to Chelsea, but their physical decline could also be a source of worry, with these players often assured starting berths when they are fit.
The new Chelsea boss will have to figure out an unproblematic way of letting some of these players go without losing too much experience while knowing which players to keep, and how to keep them happy even if they are not playing every week.
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