After the recent epic Chelsea and Man City draw at Stamford Bridge, TV pundit Jamie Carragher said something that resonated.
“The best thing about Chelsea right now is Pochettino. It is not the players or the owners. It is the manager they have got.”
The rapid change in players at Chelsea since Todd Boehly took over as chairman and interim sporting director in June 2022 has brought more upheaval than positive results. With Mauricio Pochettino having arrived at Chelsea in May, this could change for the better.
The Early Boehly Era
When Boehly’s consortium, now known as BlueCo, paid £4.25 billion to buy Chelsea in May 2022, The Blues were fresh from a third-position finish in the 2021/22 EPL season. They also held the European Super Cup and the World Club Cup and were the 2020/21 UEFA Champions League winners.
Elite German manager Thomas Tuchel had masterminded Chelsea’s success through a strong working relationship with ex-owner Roman Abramovic’s club director, Marina Granovskaia and technical advisor Petr Čech.
When Boehly took control, Granovskaia and Čech were immediately relieved of their positions. Tuchel wasn’t happy with his resultant more “hands-on” approach relating to Chelsea’s transfer activities or with Boehly’s transfer strategy and many of his targets.
With Boehly in charge of transfers, Chelsea spent over £250m on new players in the new owner’s first transfer window. Tuchel allegedly disagreed with many of those signed, as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Raheem Sterling, Kalidou Koulibaly, Marc Cucurella and others joined the Chelsea ranks.
With an increasingly unhappy manager, Chelsea’s results began to falter. With Boehly and Tuchel often disagreeing, the former dismissed his manager after a working relationship of under ten months. Boehly replaced Tuchel with the largely unheralded Graham Potter from Brighton & Hove Albion in September 2022.
The Potter Struggles
Graham Potter had taken perennial strugglers Brighton to 9th in the EPL the previous season and a fine start to the 2022/23 season secured his move to Stamford Bridge. His unconventional and progressive coaching method was perfect for smaller clubs, with much success achieved at Östersund in Sweden, Swansea and Brighton.
Immediately, it was clear that Potter’s methods didn’t fit in among Chelsea’s star-studded squad, and the new manager couldn’t settle into a rhythm from the beginning. Boehly backed his appointment for longer than many thought prudent, but the writing was on the wall when the Stamford Bridge faithful started getting involved.
The fans began calling for Potter’s resignation after a home defeat by bottom-club Southampton in February. Less than two months later, Boehly fired Graham Potter after a home loss to Aston Villa and they were 11th on the table. Potter departed holding a lower point-per-game ratio than any other Chelsea manager before him.
Club favourite Frank Lampard temporarily stepped into the breach for the remainder of the 2022/23 campaign. He inherited Potter’s large, very young squad courtesy of Boehly’s transfer business. Chelsea’s inexperience showed as the team lost more ground to finish 12th in the EPL.
Not since 2017/18 had The Blues failed to qualify for the UEFA Champions League. The last time they had finished the season outside the EPL’s Top 10 was in 1995/96 under Glenn Hoddle.
Todd Boehly and BlueCo needed a plan to slow Chelsea’s slide. From a side regularly competing for trophies and titles throughout the Abramovic era, bookmakers now regard the rich London club as a mid-table team at best. With odds of 250/1, Chelsea is now listed as the eighth favourite for the EPL title by the top football betting sites in the UK.
There is no European football for The Blues this season for the first time in almost a decade.
An Argentinian Rescue Act?
Enter Mauricio Pochettino, an experienced manager with a reputation for improving mediocre teams in ways they can more closely realise their potential. With many younger, supremely talented, but underachieving players in the Chelsea squad, Pochettino could prove a wise choice.
The former Argentinian International centre-back, fresh from a year away from football, has started the season slowly. Chelsea lies in 10th position in the EPL, but a vital difference is there is direction and purpose to how the team is playing. From the season’s opening league fixture against Liverpool onwards, there is a spark in the players that wasn’t evident last season.
There remains a lack of consistency, but the Argentinian has already warned that patience is needed to restore Chelsea to a position in the top four. What is needed from the owners, the fans, and the bettors is time for Pochettino to work his magic.
We know Pochettino has this magic within him. In the past, he’s taken Espanyol from a relegation-threatened side in La Liga to mid-table safety. He also worked wonders for Southampton in a short space of time.
At The Saints, he masterminded wins over Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea within his first four months in charge and a top-eight finish a season later. Then Pochettino transformed Tottenham Hotspur into a consistent top-four team, culminating in its first UEFA Champions League final appearance.
Now Pochettino is the new manager at Chelsea. Remember, he’s still a very new manager at Chelsea. He’s reinforced quickly where necessary, with Robert Sanchez, Lesley Ugochukwu, Levi Colwill, Nicolas Jackson and Cole Palmer all proving valuable additions. And he’s getting more out of Raheem Sterling and Mykhaylo Mudryk.
It’s likely that, as the season progresses, this Chelsea team under Mauricio Pochettino’s guidance will do likewise.