EPL

Streamline swollen squad and sort strikeforce – tasks facing Mauricio Pochettino

By Sports Desk May 29, 2023

New Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino will find he has a daunting in-tray once he gets to work at Stamford Bridge as the Blues look to bounce back from the wreckage of this season.

The job presents as many opportunities as it does challenges and a coach of Pochettino’s charisma, calibre and character will relish trying to mould solutions out of the current malaise.

Here, the PA news agency looks at what the former Tottenham and Paris St Germain boss has to get to grips with.

Slim down the squad…

Successive managers have reaped the chaos of the new Chelsea ownership’s scattergun approach to recruitment during the last 12 months and a significant clear-out is needed if the squad is to be anything like manageable.

Apart from the obvious logistical headache of trying to organise training with a bloated group that exceeds 30, there is the effect on morale that having so much surplus and deadwood will have around Cobham.

There is clearly no sense in the manager and his staff investing time and attention during sessions in players who are unlikely to feature, particularly when those currently comprising the starting XI present next to no cohesion.

Pochettino needs to figure out quickly who of the current crop has a role to play in his rebuild and who can be put towards easing the Financial Fair Play pressure the club is under.

… but persuade Joao Felix to stay

It might seem counter-productive considering the above but convincing the on-loan winger to turn his six-month loan stay from Atletico Madrid into a permanent one will be key.

It will likely mean tossing another hefty transfer fee into an already nightmarish FFP calculation, but Felix has been one of few recruits under new owner Todd Boehly who has shown something close to his best, albeit not consistently.

He has six months of acclimatising to the Premier League under his belt and, like Enzo Fernandez, has the potential under the right manager to become one of the best in the world.

Don’t write off Aubameyang and Lukaku

Despite the fact that only four Premier League teams this season have fewer goals – 19th-placed Leicester have outscored them by 13 – there are two strikers on Chelsea’s books that between them have scored almost 600 goals at the top level.

It has not worked out so far for either Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Romelu Lukaku at Stamford Bridge, but nor has much else during the two years since the club paid £97.5million to bring in Lukaku – currently on loan at Inter Milan – and Aubameyang’s time has been even more chaotic.

If the problem until now has been one of relationships, personnel and the lack of a settled environment then a new manager and staff could go some of the way towards wiping the slate clean for both players.

There is also a buy-back option on Tammy Abraham about to come into effect that, considering his success at Roma, might also be worth looking at given the lack of firepower.

Give supporters back that old Chelsea swagger

Part of the reason Graham Potter never looked a natural fit at Stamford Bridge was an absence of the self-assurance bordering on arrogance that defined some of the club’s most successful managers.

Title-winners Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte oozed entitlement – even though in reality their swagger was hard earned – whilst Carlo Ancelotti exhibited a confident coolness.

To supporters, Chelsea’s image is just one more part of their identity next to the haul of trophies from the last 20 years.

Pochettino has the personality to satisfy certain of those requirements. Whether he can do it whilst matching the success of that glittering trio will be the true test.

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