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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Why Mauricio Pochettino left Chelsea: ‘They are a basket case’

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Football

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The manager market has become more interesting, and Chelsea somehow more erratic. Mauricio Pochettino has left Stamford Bridge by mutual consent, although those who know the manager insist his desire was much stronger by the time the decision leaked.

He had wanted out for weeks, having found the structure of the club increasingly difficult to work in. Chelsea may now have some work convincing a manager of the required profile to join, as they have to make a number of other decisions to meet Profit and Sustainability Rules. It is known Pochettino was already aggravated about potential sales of Conor Gallagher or Trevoh Chalobah. He himself will now become of immediate interest to Bayern Munich, Juventus and Manchester United. The German club have already actively considered the possibility.

It should be acknowledged there might not have been that many options for Pochettino a few months ago. As Chelsea’s form remained erratic, the talk was more from the other side, and how the club’s American hierarchy were considering moving on.

The tone drastically changed as the impact of Pochettino’s tactics began to be seen, the team started to play some convincing football, and they ended up in sixth after winning their final five games of the season. The feeling among Premier League rivals was that, if they could add a touch more class in attack and maybe some experience, they could get close to 80 points.

This is the frustration now for many of the Chelsea squad. They could feel everything was on the up. This was also a frustration for Pochettino, though. He had no guarantees that the necessary improvements would be made. That wasn’t the only issue, either. There is a lot of uncertainty around the medium-term direction, compounded by the hierarchy. The word grows around football that Chelsea are “a basket case”.

Who knows, this might be a threshold moment for the club. They could have quickly become a serious outfit again, if only because they stuck to an approach that was working. Instead, the next appointment – again – is crucial. Roberto De Zerbi offers a potential quick solution, although there is competition from Juventus. Chelsea insist they want to appoint a long-term project manager and they are interested in Ipswich Town’s Kieran McKenna. The great question is whether Chelsea are back at an even more chaotic point than they were under Roman Abramovich, when Brendan Rodgers said he wouldn’t go there as an up-and-coming coach because he wanted to build a career.

On the other side, Pochettino has to be wise about his own next choice. He has probably got out of Chelsea with his reputation largely unaffected by this stint but it has been two chaotic jobs in a row that has caused his career to stagnate. He went from one extreme, and Paris Saint-Germain with their series of stars on bloated contracts, to another, and Chelsea’s group of unproven kids. This was another element that frustrated the Pochettino camp earlier in the season.

He has instead disrupted the managerial market. That had recently been characterised by a number of major clubs prevaricating on unproven options. The Argentine has more clout than pretty much anyone out there. Chelsea are meanwhile looking beyond.

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