Chelsea have suffered back-to-back losses, conceding eight goals, as the pressure rises on Mauricio Pochettino, whose Blues record is similar to Graham Potter’s; watch Chelsea’s next Premier League game away at Crystal Palace live on Sky Sports on February 12, kick-off 8pm
Image: Chelsea are struggling under boss Mauricio Pochettino
Chelsea are in the mire – which is where they have been for more than a year now.
Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali’s huge investment and equally impressive ambition have so far seen no improvement on the pitch. In fact, judging by the Premier League table alone, the club has gone backwards.
Just a reminder, Chelsea finished third in Thomas Tuchel’s final season in charge.
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During Sunday’s 4-2 home defeat to Wolves, groups of Chelsea supporters could be heard chanting the name of the club’s previous owner, Roman Abramovich. Patience with the new ownership is wearing thin, however admirable the investment and aspiration.
FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Chelsea and Wolves.
When Clearlake Capital bought the club in May 2022, Chelsea looked upwards and saw only Manchester City and Liverpool above them in the Premier League.
But after buying the club for a record £4.25bn, spending significantly more than £1bn on players and staff and after sacking three managers, are Chelsea any better off now than when they removed Graham Potter 10 months ago?
Comparisons are timely because Mauricio Pochettino has now had 31 games in charge – the same number of fixtures that Potter managed before he was sacked.
Chelsea were 11th in the Premier League table then – exactly where they are now. The records of the two managers are remarkably similar. Both managers lost 11 matches in that period – Pochettino has turned two more draws into wins.
But Potter’s final five games in charge of Chelsea saw only one defeat and three wins – including one over Borussia Dortmund that took them to the Champions League quarter-finals.
Pochettino’s last five results have seen two heavy defeats to Wolves and Liverpool, and two wins against Luton and Middlesbrough, though victory over the latter has taken Chelsea into this month’s League Cup final.
There is no suggestion Pochettino is under any immediate danger of the sack – but Potter was released with a very similar record, despite Boehly stating the former Brighton boss was appointed because he shared the owners’ philosophy: to oversee a long-term development project. That project lasted seven months.
Pochettino’s Chelsea has scored many more goals in those 31 games (54 to Potter’s 33), but the team has conceded many more goals too (43 to Potter’s 31).
Potter’s Chelsea kept two more clean sheets (11 to Pochettino’s nine), though the team’s passing accuracy has improved slightly under the Argentine – 88 per cent pass completion compared with 86 per cent when Potter was in charge.
But the ultimate statistic shows that none of Chelsea’s three managers appointed by Clearlake have won enough matches. Potter’s win percentage was 36 per cent, Frank Lampard’s nine per cent and Pochettino’s is currently 45 per cent.
Lampard’s record, sandwiched in between Potter and Poch, was even more disappointing:
Recruitment is the biggest problem
So why have so many big names struggled to take over the reins at Stamford Bridge? Recruitment has been an obvious, and the biggest, problem.
The first thing to point out is Potter, Lampard and Pochettino were not appointed as managers. Their title of ‘head coach’ hints at how Chelsea’s hierarchy works, and how little say the man in charge of the first team has over recruitment and other structures around the first team.
Jamie O’Hara is not impressed by Chelsea’s current form following a 4-2 loss to Wolves at Stamford Bridge and discusses what he believes has changed at the club.
Under Pochettino, the club recruited 13 players at a cost of more than £400m in the summer. Under Potter, Chelsea signed £550m-worth of players across two transfer windows. While both Pochettino and Potter were consulted, neither head coach had a significant role to play in the majority of those signings.
Chelsea’s co-sporting directors Paul Winstanley and Laurence Stewart were appointed a year ago, and the two chiefs have ultimate power over all football matters – talent identification, coaching, recruitment and data analysis.
With a host of other senior personnel brought in to work underneath Winstanley and Stewart, Chelsea’s recruitment department is the envy of Europe, having been assembled at great expense with some of the brightest talents and biggest names in the football business. But so far, that has not led to improvements on the pitch.
The repeated, unprecedented investment in players has led to unfeasibly large squads, if you listen to what the head coaches have said. Both Potter and Pochettino have complained about the sheer number of players they have had to work with.
Pochettino said in July there would be a “mess” if his 29-man “unbalanced” squad was not cut down. At the time, he had four left-backs, but only five natural midfielders.
Image: Chelsea have spent more than £1bn on signings under the Todd Boehly-Clearlake Capital ownership
In September, he said: “I need to be more involved now in all the decisions. I have started to work to identify what we need for January.”
In the Potter era, with a squad of 33 senior players, some had to get changed in the corridor because there weren’t enough places in the dressing room at their Cobham training ground. Eleven-versus-eleven training games often saw more than a dozen players on the sidelines or practicing in a separate small-sided game.
When Chelsea paid more than £100m for Enzo Fernandez 12 months ago, Potter said: “I found out that we’d signed Enzo when it was all done and I’m very pleased, because he is a fantastic player.”
Before his final game in charge last spring, Lampard said: “The squad has been too big – and that’s the biggest challenge I’ve found day-to-day. [Many players] are a bit disillusioned because they’re not playing or might be leaving.”
Lampard also said standards generally at the club had dipped: “I can be honest about that, particularly because it’s my last game.”
Injuries sum up Chelsea’s malaise
Image: Chelsea captain Reece James has made just eight Premier League appearances this season.
Another issue successive Chelsea head coaches have had to deal with is the sheer amount of structural change at the club – which is still being felt 20 months after the Clearlake takeover.
The first team’s medical department was overhauled 18 months ago, with several long-term employees replaced, including Paco Biosca who had been in charge at Chelsea since 2011.
Injuries plagued Potter’s tenure, with 11 first-team players absent at the height of the problems. Pochettino had 12 players on the sidelines earlier this month.
While there is no suggestion the changes in medical staff caused or added to those injury problems, it’s another example of the widespread changes at Chelsea, which are still bedding in.
Potter would also claim mitigation for his poor Chelsea record in the lack of a pre-season to prepare his squad and the interruption of the winter World Cup in Qatar which left him with just four senior players to work with.
But it’s clear that Pochettino too, is struggling with many of the same issues felt by his predecessor.
Results remain stubbornly poor, hugely inferior to what both the Chelsea owners and supporters expect from a team who won the Champions League less than three years ago.
Watch Chelsea’s next Premier League game – a trip to Crystal Palace – live on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football on February 12 from 6.30pm; kick-off 8pm
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