Chelsea’s New Ride With Mauricio Pochettino

Since the beginning of the 21st century, the 2022/2023 football season is arguably the worst a Chelsea fan has witnessed. Going from winning the UEFA Champions League title in 2021 with Kai Havertz scoring the only goal of the match to finishing bottom 10 in the English Premier League in 2023 is something a blue blood could never have dreamt of. Few seasons back, Maurizio Sarri left Chelsea for Italy after coaching them for a full season between July 2018 and June 2019, winning the Europa League, finishing third place in the EPL, and being a Carabao Cup finalist.

Due to a couple of reasons, he had to leave Chelsea and then Frank Lampard, a Chelsea legend, returned to take over the coaching duties at the Bridge. Lampard started the 2019/2020 season with a transfer ban from FIFA which deprived him of the ability to buy/sell/loan/swap players. The ban was as a result of the violation of article 18b and 19 of the Regulation of Transfers and Status of Players (RTSP) shortly after the club completed the signing of Christian Pulisic. The ban lasted for two transfer windows, i.e. the summer before 19/20 season and mid season window in January 2020. Lampard managed the same players from Sarri’s time due to the ban and was only able to buy players during summer in 2020. Although the ex-player turned coach didn’t win a trophy throughout his time in the club as a manager, he finished fourth with 66 points in his first full season enabling the club secure a spot to play in the Champions League in 20/21. He also resumed as the manager in the 20/21 season and coached the Blues for half of the season until Roman Abramovich sacked him in January 2021. He had a very good first season finishing top 4 and getting to the FA Cup finals but couldn’t keep up the consistency in his second season even after spending £200 million in the summer on new players.

Chelsea struggled to perform at the top level and found themselves at the ninth position on the standings after playing 19 games, securing 29 points out of a possible 57. Thomas Tuchel replaced Lampard in January 2021 as the new club’s manager after Ralf Rangnick turned down an interim managerial role offer. The German football manager did a wonderful job taking the Blues from ninth to fourth on the table, finishing the league with 67 points closely behind third-place Liverpool with 69 points. Also in that season, he led the club to win their second UCL title in history since Roberto Di Matteo’s Chelsea in 2012, the 2021 Club World Cup against Palmeiras, and the UEFA Super Cup against Villareal. From a lot of fans, that was a glorious upgrade from Lampard’s time at Chelsea. He improved the club in his first full season (2021/2022), finishing third-place with 74 points behind Manchester City and Liverpool. Chelsea were also Carabao and FA Cup finalists under him. After a 19-year tenure as the owner of Chelsea, Roman Abramovich was forced to sell the club after being by sanctioned by the British government as an enabler of the Russian attack on Ukraine. A group led by Todd Boehly took over Chelsea for the 2022/2023 season while Tuchel resumed duty as the manager. Not long into the season, Boehly sacked Tuchel over a couple of reasons with conflicts of interests being the major and viral one. Graham Potter succeeded Tuchel and managed the club from September 2022 till April 2023. The 47-year-old coached Chelsea for 206 days, leading the club to play 22 games in the league and 31 games across all competitions.

With a record of 7 wins, 7 draws, and 8 losses in the league (which doubles as the worst managerial record in the last 10 years), the final straw for Chelsea seemed to be the 2-0 loss to Unai Emery’s Aston Villa. Bruno Saltor took over for a while before the club brought Lampard back to complete the season. Chelsea finished 12th position on the table with 44 points, closely behind 11th-place Crystal Palace with 45 points. Chelsea’s worst season in the 21st century featured 4 managers that cumulatively amassed 44 points thereby missing out on UCL football since 2018. After a rocky season, the club appointed the former Tottenham and PSG coach, Mauricio Pochettino, as the new manager on July 1, 2023. After long speculations and rumors, Pochettino was considered the best available option to resume managerial duty for Chelsea in the new season. The Argentine manager resumed duty with the team to start training sessions for the pre-season and 2023/2024 season. On another note, Boehly facilitated the purchase of Sterling from Manchester City, Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli, Cucurella from Brighton, Aubameyang from Barcelona, Wesley Fofana from Leicester City, Carney Chukwuemeka from Aston Villa, Denis Zakaria on loan from Juventus during the summer he came.

Source: The Sun

In January 2023, the club also bought Mudryk from Shakhtar Donetsk, Noni Madueke from PSV Eindhoven, Enzo Fernandez from Benfica, David Fofana from a Norwegian club, Badiashile from AS Monaco. Christopher Nkunku is also now in London from RB Leipzig. They also got Joao Felix from Athletico Madrid on loan. After the 2022/2023 season, Chelsea parted ways with Edouard Mendy, Koulibaly, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Ngolo Kante, Cesar Azpilicueta, Mateo Kovacic, Jorginho, Christian Pulisic, Mason Mount, and Kai Havertz. Zakaria and Felix are back to their clubs and David Fofana was loaned to Union Berlin. A few players like Hakim Ziyech, Romelu Lukaku, Aubameyang, Conor Gallagher, Trevoh Chalobah, Marc Cucurella, etc. are also expected to leave before the transfer window closes. There’s an evident macroscopic shift in the squad between the 2021/2022 season and the 2023/2024 season that is about to start. Infact, there are about 12 players from the 2021 UCL final squad list that are out of the club.

Pochettino is mounting the managerial wheel and a lot of Chelsea fans are very expectant. Making top 4 next season might be a reach although it’s not totally impossible but it’s also a season to rebuild the form with the new set of players. The fans are still expecting the club to sign a senior back-up goalie to complement Kepa, a defensive midfielder, and a prominent center forward to boost their chances to compete at the topmost level. Pochettino landed in Cobham 3 days after he resumed duty as the new manager and players are travelling back from their break in preparation for the new season. Are we going to have Chelsea at the receiving end of our witty banters this new season? Or is Poch going to do wonders with the boys? I guess time will tell.

Peter Adeyemo.

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