EPL

Mauricio Pochettino defends Chelsea medical team amid fresh injury crisis

By Sports Desk September 22, 2023

Mauricio Pochettino has defended Chelsea’s medical department amid the spate of injuries that left him with only 15 available first-team players for last weekend’s draw with Bournemouth.

The manager was without 12 of his senior squad for the drab goalless encounter at the Vitality Stadium with Moises Caicedo, Marc Cucurella and Noni Madueke late additions to an already lengthy list of absentees.

It is the second time in 2023 that the club has been hit by an injury crisis after former manager Graham Potter was left without 10 first-team players in January.

Pochettino included three players aged 19 or under who had no first-team experience on his bench last weekend, as well as two goalkeepers, as the late withdrawal of Cucurella – who had a fever – the night before the game stretched Chelsea’s billion-pound squad to breaking point.

Both the defender and Madueke will be available for Sunday’s visit of Aston Villa to Stamford Bridge, with Armando Broja also in line to return for his first appearance since damaging his anterior cruciate ligament in December, pending a late assessment.

But the squad remains a pale impression of what co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali have spent such sums to assemble over the past three transfer windows.

The list of players unavailable includes summer signing Christopher Nkunku who was injured playing against Borussia Dortmund during the pre-season tour of the United States and is unlikely to make his competitive debut before December.

Club captain Reece James, new signing Romeo Lavia and defender Wesley Fofana are also missing, as is Carney Chukwuemeka who scored his first goal for the club against West Ham in August before being forced off with a knee problem.

Trevoh Chalobah is also out though Benoit Badiashile has returned to training with the team. Caicedo is due to be assessed on Saturday.

“Before we arrived here we did everything to try and have a clear idea of why there were too many injuries last season also, to analyse the risk,” said Pochettino.

“It’s (about) the profile of the player, the risk of the player. It’s not the people working in the medical staff of performance area.

“I think we need to respect these areas (at the club) are very good professionals, qualified people. That’s why they are working in football. But there’s an individual risk to (certain) players, you need to assess.

“Then there’s bad luck. We have injures that maybe happen in one season or maybe in two, but have happened (to Chelsea) because of different situations you cannot control.

“Christopher against Dortmund, it was a tackle and he twists his knee. Three or four months out. That is from the beginning of the game, he wasn’t tired, he was fresh, good, strong.

“The organisation in football are super professional and we need to respect that. Sometimes things happen like this and it’s difficult to evaluate.”

Pochettino said that he favours Conor Gallagher as captain over Enzo Fernandez in the absence of James, with Ben Chilwell having started the Bournemouth game on the bench.

The manager is concerned about the Argentina international’s communication as he is still learning to speak the language after moving from Benfica in January.

Gallagher skippered the team at the Vitality Stadium as he did against AFC Wimbledon in the EFL Cup earlier in September.

“Enzo is still struggling with his English,” said Pochettino. “If we need to communicate with the referee, Conor can perfectly do the job. For me I prefer Conor to Enzo because he can speak English.

“It’s not only about character or personality or profile. You need to communicate with people. And if you have not managed the language properly, you cannot be captain. Maybe I am wrong but it is my opinion.”

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