In the last round of the English Premier League on November 12, Chelsea drew with Manchester City with a score of 4:4. Before the start of this game, no one believed that the blues had any chance in the match with the national and European champion. A successful draw among football experts and analysts is perceived as a victory for Chelsea and they associate this with head coach Mauricio Pochettino. How an Argentine specialist is returning the former glory to the London team in the URA.RU material.
When Graham Potter was sacked as head coach in April 2023, Frank Lampard was brought back as his replacement. The idea of such a replacement was clear. The new management of Chelsea did not inspire confidence in the fans, and you can always hide behind the invitation of a club legend. The fans were not upset, but they were not happy either, as they understood that this was a temporary option. The team ended up with just one win in 12 games under Lampard.
The only thing left to believe in was the arrival of a strong specialist. After Lampard’s invitation, management continued to search for a head coach who could build a new team. Various names were called. The most obvious choice was Julian Nagelsmann, who had experience working both in a top club (Bayern Munich) and in teams under construction (RB Leipzig). There was a lot of talk about Luis Enrique, Luciano Spalletti and even Vincent Kompany. But Mauricio Pochettino was always the logical option.
The Argentine has extensive experience in the Premier League. A year at Southampton and five years he coached Tottenham Hotspur, with whom he reached the Champions League final. Crazy achievement for this team. Only the one-year work at PSG is repulsive. But only Thomas Tuchel has not failed with the Parisian team in recent years. The management’s choice in the person of Todd Boley ultimately fell on Pochettino, as became known at the end of May last year.
The main transfer of the summer of 2023 for Chelsea was Christopher Nkunku. Over the past two seasons, the Frenchman has steadily dragged RB Leipzig onto his shoulders into the Champions League, becoming the team’s top scorer and assistant. The striker played well during the pre-season and fit into the scheme that Pochettino was going to set up. It seemed that after 12th place, Chelsea would immediately begin to gain points and at least qualify for the top four. The last match of the pre-season with Borussia Dortmund was fatal, when the Frenchman had to be changed in the 22nd minute. Nkunku required knee surgery, which became a headache for Pochettino.
Chelsea, in the classic manner, under the new management, actively purchased in the summer, so the club was not left without strikers. Senegalese Villarreal forward Nicholas Jackson, who had just begun to show football, was taken as a replacement or even as an extension. At the same time, Nkunku is a ready-made striker who is ready to decide for himself and make a pass at the right time so that he can score. Besides, you can’t instill a new idea in the players in a month. Just before the start of the season, the clouds once again gathered over Stamford Bridge.
Pochettino started his first game in the Premier League with a three-at-the-back formation, creating a powerful fist against which Liverpool’s attacks crashed. Enzo Fernandez showed an excellent game, but Chelsea’s attack looked toothless, so much so that the goal was scored by new defender Axel Disasi. Then came the defeat to West Ham. Chelsea had complete advantage in the match, but this did not bring any goals.
The climax came in September, when the team scored only one goal in four games. At the same time, the team showed a good xG (expected goals) indicator. Against Nottingham Forest – 2.28 (lost 0:1), Bournemouth – 1.4 (0:0), Aston Villa – 1.2 (0:1), Brighton – 1.21 (1:0). In all games, Chelsea scored a goal. The team began to settle in the second half of the standings.
Glimpses of hope
But it was in September that Pochettino switched to a four-back formation. October has already become better in terms of results. Chelsea beat strong Fulham away. The Blues controlled the game well, but even in this match they missed two clear scoring chances. A week later, they defeated newcomer Burnley away – 1:4. A difficult calendar lay ahead for Chelsea. Real tests for Pochettino.
Arsenal were the first to come to test Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. By the 48th minute the hosts were leading 2:0. Arsenal were able to equalize, and Blues goalkeeper Robert Sanchez is considered to be the culprit of the comeback. But it is worth noting that with the second goal, Chelsea’s defense lost concentration. She allowed a cross into the goalkeeper’s area. And she gave space to Leandro Trossard to shoot at the goal. But with this game the Chelsea players gave their fans hope for a revival.
Such a game turned the heads not only of the fans, but also of the players themselves. In the next round everything seemed to return to normal. Chelsea uninspiredly loses to Brentford at home 0:2. Terrible games lay ahead against the leaders in the Premier League at that time, Tottenham and Manchester City.
In the meeting with Tottenham, Pochettino finds his ideal combination in attack while Nkunku is recovering. Nicholas Jackson is at the forefront. Below him is Conor Gallagher. Left: Raheem Sterling. On the right is Cole Palmer. Yes, Spurs played in the minority from the 33rd minute and missed a goal from the penalty spot. But Chelsea accumulates more than four xG per match and scores four. Pochettino has found a balance between attack and defense. But the next examiner was Manchester City.
Pochettino offered Guardiola his game
The last time Chelsea beat City was in May 2021, when they were able to beat the Citizens first in the English Championship and then in the Champions League final. Since then, six matches have already been played between them. City won them all. Before this game, Pochettino made only one change. Mark Cucurella appeared on the left flank of defense instead of Levi Collville, who was injured.
Cucurella received a low score for this match, as he fouled Erling Holland and earned a penalty. But the Spaniard was good when playing under high pressure. He completed 84% of his passes (32/38), including one key pass. Even more telling is a map that shows the average positions of City’s attacking players during the match.
Phil Foden (47), Julian Alvarez (19) and Erling Haaland (9) gravitated to the left flank of Chelsea’s defense, where Cucurella played. City head coach Pep Guardiola understood that this was a weak point in the Londoners’ defense. Indeed, three of the four goals conceded somehow came from the right side of City’s attack. But with all this, Chelsea broke Guardiola’s pattern of play. Pochettino managed to impose his game on Pep, something not every coach would dare to do, as City brutally punishes teams that play open football. As a result – 4:4. You can’t immediately remember the last time the townspeople missed four. Pochettino reset this statistic.
In his telegram channel, football analyst Kirill Khait writes that Chelsea did not get involved in Guardiola’s pragmatic football. “Chelsea did not get involved in this (clearly losing) game and forced a shootout. It is characteristic that both of Guardiola’s substitutions were defensive. He needed, if not control, then at least a closed style of play. And Pochettino needed chaos. Pochettino won,” said Khait.
Chelsea are currently in the middle of the league table. The team won, drew and lost four times. The perfect balance, but fans expect more. So far, Pochettino has managed the difficult part of the calendar very well. After the international break, Chelsea will play against Newcastle. The Argentine said that Nkunku could be ready for this game. Pochettino showed that even without a goal-scoring striker, Chelsea have huge potential that no one truly realizes. But Nkunku still has to get in shape, and Pochettino has to further study and reveal the abilities of his players.