EPL

Mauricio Pochettino says Enzo Fernandez will be ‘much better’ next season

By Sports Desk April 22, 2024

Mauricio Pochettino believes it is unfair to compare the impact of Enzo Fernandez at Chelsea to that of Arsenal’s Declan Rice, as the teams prepare to face each other at the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday.

England international Rice joined Mikel Arteta’s side from West Ham last summer for £100million, less than the £107m it cost to take World Cup winner Fernandez from Benfica to Stamford Bridge in January 2023.

The fee for the Argentinian was a British record at the time, though the club have since surpassed it in signing fellow midfielder Moises Caicedo from Brighton for £115m.

Rice has won plaudits for his transformational effect on Arsenal’s midfield, helping to forge a sturdier, more cohesive side than the one that fell away in the final weeks of last season’s Premier League title race.

By contrast, Chelsea’s league position has not markedly improved in the 15 months since Fernandez arrived in west London, and despite clear flashes of his obvious talent and range of passing, question marks have remained over whether the club got value for money.

However, his countryman Pochettino called for perspective on the obstacles that his player has had to contend with since arriving in England.

“Declan Rice was playing for West Ham, an English guy who knows the Premier League, knows the language,” said the 52-year-old.

“For Enzo, after the World Cup to arrive here, in a team that was inconsistent, difficult to get positive results, always it was really difficult.

“In summer he was involved in too many games and he arrived late in pre-season, hasn’t had a holiday in the last two years.

“Too many negative things happened. (It was) difficult for him to adapt, his family. It’s not easy to adapt and perform so quick.”

Fernandez was responsible for creating Chelsea’s best chance of Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final defeat to Manchester City, hitting an incisive, raking pass from deep that sent Nicolas Jackson through on goal, but the striker could not finish.

He has scored three Premier League goals and made four assists since moving from Portugal in the immediate aftermath of Argentina’s 2022 World Cup triumph, but Pochettino insisted the best is yet to come from the 23-year-old.

“For sure he is going to be much better next season, after the experience of the whole season in this squad and this team,” he said.

“He’s more experienced, he gets better feelings. The whole season is good for him to learn. Even if he is a world champion, he needs to adapt to the Premier League and to this club. For me, there is no doubt that he is going to be much better.”

Pochettino said there have been no discussions over the future of striker Romelu Lukaku, currently on a season-long loan at Roma, but appeared to hint that the door could be open for a return.

The 30-year-old has scored 18 goals for the Serie A side this campaign after telling Chelsea last summer that he wanted to leave.

“He’s a Chelsea player, so for sure we will pay attention,” said Pochettino. “It’s an option. But still we did not take any decision.”

Related items

  • Williamson signs new Arsenal deal Williamson signs new Arsenal deal

    Leah Williamson has put pen to paper on a new deal at Arsenal, extending her 19-year stay with the Gunners.

    The England defender, who was eight years old when she had her first trial at the club, has agreed fresh terms with the Women's Super League side.

    Williamson returned to action in February following a lengthy lay-off with an anterior cruciate ligament injury, which forced her to miss the Lionesses' run to the 2023 Women's World Cup final.

    The 27-year-old, who skippered England to Euro 2022 glory, has made 232 appearances for Arsenal, winning the Women's Super League as well as the FA Cup and League Cup on two occasions.

    "Everyone knows what Arsenal means to me, but I think every time I sign a new contract, I feel that love ignite all over again," she told the club's official website.

    "I'm very happy to be staying. This is a place where I can still continue to grow, develop and be challenged. As a group, we're all very focused on bringing more silverware to this club and I can't wait to get started again when the new season comes around."

    "Leah is an essential part of our team, so we're delighted she has signed a new contract with us," Arsenal head coach Jonas Eidevall added. "She brings us so much on and off the pitch - leadership, accountability and commitment.

    "Leah has a special bond with Arsenal, and I'm looking forward to continuing to work together to bring more success to this great club."

    Clare Wheatley, the club's director of women's football, said: "Leah's connection with Arsenal runs so deep. I can remember her as a girl in our academy many years ago, and I'm so proud of the determined, passionate woman she has become.

    "We're thrilled that Leah has signed a new deal here, and I know our supporters will join me in congratulating her today."

  • Hazard 'bit sad' with Chelsea decision to sack Pochettino Hazard 'bit sad' with Chelsea decision to sack Pochettino

    Eden Hazard "was a bit sad" to see Chelsea part company with head coach Mauricio Pochettino after just one season in charge.

    Pochettino left Chelsea by mutual consent last week after a trophyless campaign and a sixth-place finish in the Premier League.

    Chelsea great Hazard, who spent seven years at Stamford Bridge, believes the former Tottenham boss deserved more time.

    "I was a bit sad," he told talkSPORT. "I think he did a great job. I know people want Chelsea to be in the top four but it’s a season of transition. 

    "He's a great manager. I wish him good luck and let's see who is going to be there in the future."

    Chelsea are reported to have whittled their shortlist to four names - Thomas Frank, Kieran McKenna, Roberto De Zerbi and Enzo Maresca

    However, Hazard cheekily suggested that former Chelsea team-mate Cesc Fabregas could be an option for the Blues.

    Fabregas is working as an assistant manager with Italian side Como and helped guide them to Serie A promotion this season.

    Asked about possible contenders for the job, Hazard said: "I have my friend in Como. He can be the first manager."

  • Inzaghi 'not worried' about Lautaro future ahead of meeting new Inter owners Inzaghi 'not worried' about Lautaro future ahead of meeting new Inter owners

    Simone Inzaghi says he is "not worried" about Lautaro Martinez's future, with the Inter skipper yet to sign a new contract at San Siro.

    The Argentina international, who is under contract until 2026, was the top scorer in Serie A with 24 goals, as the Nerazzurri claimed their 20th Scudetto after finishing 19 points clear of second-place Milan.

    Inter are now under new ownership with American firm Oaktree completing their takeover of the club from Suning last week.

    The future of Lautaro will be high on the agenda when Inzaghi meets with the new owners this week, with the skipper's salary demands reportedly delaying negotiations, but the head coach is confident the situation will be resolved.

    "I am not worried because I know the club," he said. "Although the owners have changed, the directors have maintained continuity and will continue to do so."

    Inter concluded a memorable campaign with a 2-2 draw at Verona on Sunday, with Marko Arnautovic's double securing a point, and Inzaghi saluted his players' efforts.

    "We didn't hide ourselves this season," he said. "We said our objective was the second star. We wanted it so badly, knowing that the other four, five, or six contenders wanted the same. We were the best in Italy."

    When asked if the Champions League was the club's main target next season, he added: "We know what it means to play so many games. We know it won't be easy, but we'll prepare in the best way."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.