Is Mauricio Pochettino the man to turn around Chelsea’s fortunes?
If Chelsea’s new owners could have envisaged a worst-case scenario for their first 12 months in charge then it probably wouldn’t have looked too dissimilar to the way the last year has panned out for the Blues.
Chelsea have spent roughly £500 million on new players, dispensed with two managers and will have to make do with a bottom-half Premier League finish after a hugely underwhelming campaign.
In a bid to stop the rot, Clearlake Capital and Todd Boehly are seemingly set to turn to former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino.
And from what we have seen from the Blues this season, the Argentinian has a huge job on his hands.
Despite their extravagant outlay on attacking players in the transfer market, identifying a regular goalscorer will be high on Pochettino’s list of priorities.
Chelsea have netted just 36 goals in 35 Premier League games this season – only Everton, Southampton and Wolves have scored fewer – and they have dramatically underperformed on their expected-goals tally of 44.1, a figure that is inferior to relegation candidates Leeds and Leicester.
No Blues player has scored more than seven league goals and only two have managed to net more than three, Kai Havertz and Raheem Sterling.
However, Chelsea’s defensive stats should give Pochettino some cause for encouragement as only four top-flight sides boast a lower expected-goals-against tally than the Blues (44.4).
Pochettino led Tottenham as close to silverware as they have come in recent seasons but he paid the price for a poor start to the 2019-20 season, despite guiding Spurs to the Champions League final the previous campaign.
The 51-year-old struggled to control the rampant egos of the Paris Saint-Germain dressing room during a brief tenure in the French capital and he may be similarly hindered by the chaotic decision-making at Chelsea in recent times.
This season’s spending spree has resulted in a bloated squad which will make it difficult for Pochettino to mould a team in his image.
Chelsea’s new owners have favoured big-money signings over promoting academy products, and Financial Fair Play pressures following their influx of new players may also mean that they sell off some of their homegrown talent such as Mason Mount, Ruben Loftus-Cheek or Conor Gallagher this summer.
That is in sharp contrast to Pochettino’s time at Tottenham, when he made young stars such as Harry Kane, Eric Dier and Dele Alli focal points of his team.
Pochettino’s preference for playing four at the back may also put him in a tricky situation given Chelsea’s squad make-up lends itself to a three-man defence.
However, the Argentinian’s preference to utilise a high press should align with Chelsea’s. Under Pochettino Tottenham had the lowest PPDA (passes per defensive action) figures – a stat used to determine the intensity of a team’s press – in the Premier League.
Chelsea’s figure of 9.7 this season is not quite as intense as Tottenham’s 6.57 from the 2015-16 campaign, but it is still the best in the division this season.
If Pochettino can improve the Blues’ attacking output and unite what has an looked an increasingly disorganised unit then he has the basis of a solid side.
However, for a manager who likes to be in control as much as Pochettino does, Chelsea’s chaotic approach to squad-building may mean he is fighting an uphill battle.
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