Poch to Chelsea?
Issue 15, Volume 113
Without a doubt, this season has been one to forget for Chelsea fans. Just to summarize, there have been four different coaches who have managed the club this season, and the club’s first coach, Thomas Tuchel was sacked at the start of the season. Currently, Chelsea sit in 11th in the Premier League, stuck in the bottom half for the first time in two decades. Having hired Frank Lampard as the interim coach until the end of the season, the club’s search for a new manager has already concluded for next season. We have heard the names of managers such as Julian Nagelsmann, Rúben Amorim, Roger Schmidt, Roberto De Zerbi, and even Vincent Kompany pop up as candidates, but they decided on the former Tottenham Hotspur and Paris Saint-Germain coach Mauricio Pochettino. Nagelsmann declined the offer after not feeling important enough in discussions, Amorim didn’t seem to be at the same level in terms of experience as Poch, and the rest seemed unlikely due to their current success at their clubs. With that, Pochettino is set to take over the dugout at Stamford Bridge. What exactly could he bring to this Chelsea side?
#1: Player Development
The current average age of the Chelsea squad is 25.4 years old. For a squad with a whopping 32 players, that average is relatively young. This would coincide excellently with Pochettino’s coaching style. Take, for example, his tenure with Southampton in 2013, where he developed the likes of attacking midfielder Adam Lallana, defender Luke Shaw, and defensive midfielder Victor Wanyama. Or, for example, in the 2015-2016 season, when Tottenham Hotspur came third to Leicester with an extremely young squad. Poch utilized players such as forward Harry Kane, attacking midfielder Dele Alli, central midfielder Nabil Bentaleb, defensive midfielder Eric Dier, and defender Ben Davies, all of whom were under 24 years of age at the time, and with these youngsters, he was able to achieve so much.
“I’m not afraid to play them. If a player deserves to play, if they are 17, 18, 19, or 20, it’s the same for us, if they deserve to play and show character and maturity to be given the responsibility. But for that, you need to build the player,” Pochettino said in an interview while at Tottenham.
It’s fair to say that if there’s one coach who knows how to develop players into world-class talents, it’s Pochettino, and currently, there’s no club with more young talent than Chelsea. He would be developing young stars like winger Noni Madueke (21), winger Mykhailo Mudryk (22), defensive midfielder Enzo Fernández (22), defender Benoît Badiashile (22), defender Wesley Fofana (22), and many more. If he was able to develop players like Kane and Alli into world-class talents, then why can’t he do so with the likes of the players mentioned above? If he does end up getting the job, it will be extremely interesting to see how some of the players at Chelsea develop, and how the club as a whole develops.
#2: Manager Profile + CV
Besides Pochettino’s ability to develop younger players into world-class stars, he also brings a sense of longevity and expectation to the club. Let’s start with the longevity aspect of it. With the state Chelsea are in right now, owner Todd Boehly and his staff need to find a manager who Chelsea can build a project with. Last year, they believed that the man for the project was Graham Potter rather than Thomas Tuchel, but we all saw how that ended up. Now, it’s time that they find a manager who can provide long-term support and gradual development to the team, but also one who has accomplished something in their managerial career and is accustomed to managing a top club; Pochettino ticks both of those boxes. If he ends up joining, the development will definitely be a long-term project, because both he and the club are looking for a sense of longevity at this stage. Some might argue that he might not bring the necessary “aura” in the locker room that the players will look up to. However, that’s not completely true. As he has shown time and time again with his success at young clubs, Pochettino has a knack for raising young players into disciplined stars, with Kane and Alli being prime examples of such. Critics might point out the fact that he hasn’t won any trophies or his heavily unsuccessful tenure at Paris Saint-Germain. Firstly, for the state that Chelsea are in at the minute, a trophy-heavy manager isn’t necessary. With all the money spent on Europe’s biggest talents, the club needs someone who can develop those youngsters while bringing Chelsea back into the top-four next season, and Pochettino is perfect for that. His tenure at PSG should be taken with sympathy. Looking at recent managers, none have been able to deliver PSG the crown jewel: the Champions League. The aura of players like Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappé is too big at the club to give a manager like Pochettino time, and after all, he isn’t the only manager who has taken over PSG’s reins and been unsuccessful due to a falling out.
A combination of these two reasons is more than enough justification for Chelsea to hire Pochettino as their next manager. Given the fact that former candidates Nagelsmann, Luis Enrique, and Kompany are now completely out of the race according to reports, Pochettino is the best remaining option. Hopefully, next season, he can help bring the club back to a sense of normalcy while making use of all the young talent that Boehly’s management team splashed club cash on.