Why did Pochettino leave Chelsea and what does this reveal about the club?

Nothing sums up Chelsea’s feverish thinking quite like the signing they initially didn’t want to make and they ended up being named Player of the Year.

Cole Palmer’s remarkable rise at Stamford Bridge has been one of the few highlights that manager Mauricio Pochettino can look back on with pride as he contemplates his next step in football following his departure from the Blues on Tuesday by mutual consent.

Pochettino’s reputation for developing young players was one of the reasons he was given the job last summer, and Palmer’s progress has exceeded all expectations as he finished the season with 22 goals and 11 assists from 34 Premier League appearances, second only to him. Erling Haaland In the race for the Golden Shoe.

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However, sources told ESPN that Palmer was not in Chelsea’s transfer plans until the final few days of the summer window, after two other deals fell through. The Blues tried to trigger Michael Olise’s £35m release clause at Crystal Palace in the belief it could be done unilaterally. In effect, the terms meant that the player’s camp had to inform Palace of his desire to leave and arrange a release from his existing deal. Amid the confusion, Palace agreed a new deal with Olise on improved terms and he remained at Selhurst Park. Sources say Chelsea have also sought a deal with Ajax Muhammad QuddusBut West Ham United were already sufficiently advanced in their own negotiations to be able to complete a £38m transfer on 28 August.

By that point, Palmer’s disagreement with City manager Pep Guardiola over where he should play his football – Palmer wanted to go out on loan to help his development, Guardiola preferring him to stay with the team or move permanently – had become well known in football. Inner circles. Sources told ESPN that Brighton and Hove Albion were speaking to Palmer and City about a deal, while West Ham have also expressed interest. Both clubs believe the deal could be completed for around £25m. In the end, Chelsea offered £42.5m – just £2.5m of which were performance-related add-ons – for Palmer on deadline day, 1 September.

No one can doubt the success of Palmer’s signing, but the methodology reveals a practical team-building exercise that Pochettino found difficult. Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital have shown great ambition since taking over the club almost two years ago, committing more than £1bn to new signings while prioritizing the pursuit of some of the world’s most promising young talent. The signing of Willian Estévao just this week – a teenager who will not even join the club until 2025 – for an initial fee of £29m confirms that commitment is unwavering.

But the fact that they are now searching for a fourth permanent coach within two years suggests that Chelsea are a club whose structure remains an issue, but one who has yet to find a coach capable of thriving in the environment they have created.

Chelsea learned a few things from their ill-fated pre-season tour to the United States in 2022. Manager Thomas Tuchel was quick to complain about a hectic schedule that took the Blues across every time zone in the United States and left them, in his view, in poor shape. Not preparing for the new season of the English Premier League. A year later, Pochettino survived the same kind of flight time, with the club still close to the east coast, but they were nonetheless out for a long period, over two weeks playing five games.

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Sources told ESPN that Pochettino had changed the team’s itinerary on more than one occasion in a short space of time, something that’s not exactly uncommon in pre-season rounds, but it still suggested the demands were different than he expected. At one point he gave them an extra day off to tone down the training.

Sources also say Pochettino was consulted on transfer policy but, as one said, “he was just a voice in the room”. Blues owners Buhli and Clearlake Behdad Eghbali, along with co-sporting directors Paul Winstanley and Laurence Stewart, have their input as the club increasingly turns towards using data analytics to guide its strategy. This data will soon come to Pochettino’s aid. There were flashes of hope early on, but the Blues started slowly, their only league win in the first two months of the season coming at home to newly promoted Luton Town.

Follows an indifferent form. A 4-1 win over nine-man Tottenham Hotspur was preceded by a creditable and very entertaining 4-4 ​​draw against Manchester City. But these performances were followed by a disappointing 4-1 defeat to Newcastle United. By the time Chelsea lost 2-1 to Wolverhampton Wanderers last December, Chelsea were in tenth place.

However, sources told ESPN that around this time, Pochettino’s view was positive internally. The club has data indicating that the results were not indicative of the level of performance during the first half of the season. The sources added that there is also a desire to review the medical team at Cobham in light of the catastrophic list of injuries that deprived Pochettino of many first-team players. One source pointed out that Pochettino was not even able to train with his preferred XI for several months during his tenure, which is once again seen as mitigating the team’s disappointing points tally.

But there were differences of opinion elsewhere. Conor Gallagher’s role at the club has become an increasingly complex issue, sources have told ESPN. Although Chelsea have repeatedly denied any issues with compliance with the Premier League’s Profit and Sustainability Rules (PSR) – citing around £400m brought in through player exits to partly offset the £1bn spend – they have very few. of players who can be transferred for a pure profit under PSR regulations to fund future spending.

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Gallagher is one of those. The club have made little progress in contract negotiations with the 24-year-old, whose transfer value is worth around £50m – a figure that has alienated several interested clubs, including Tottenham, during the January window. However, with Chelsea still allowing Gallagher to run out his contract, the midfielder has become increasingly important to Pochettino, and he is one of the few players who can be relied upon in terms of availability and consistency of performances. With the club captain Reece James Regularly sidelined by injury, Gallagher began to captain on a regular basis.

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Pochettino has never felt the absolute support of Chelsea fans. The Carabao Cup semi-final first-leg defeat to Middlesbrough was made all the more memorable by the angry reaction from the traveling Blues fans at the final whistle, venting their anger at another sub-par performance in a 1-0 defeat. He tried several times to enjoy the rare moments of joy at the end of home matches. A win over Newcastle on penalties earlier in the competition, and a chaotic 4-3 win over Manchester United in April, saw Chelsea come from 3-2 down in the 99th minute to record their latest ever Premier League victory. But the five-and-a-half years he spent with London rivals Tottenham meant that Pochettino always faced an uphill battle to inspire the patience of Chelsea fans accustomed to instant success, expecting to maintain that even if the Roman Abramovich era’s “win-ever” costs are now in the past. .

Sources told ESPN that there is a split of opinion among senior figures at the club over whether Pochettino should remain in his position. This was developed over the second half of the season and will ultimately be determined in an end-of-season review, reflecting the decision to sack Tuchel after the owners embarked on a 100-day review upon completion of the takeover. Word of this division began to filter through the club’s Cobham base to the point where persistent questions over his future and a lack of public support from the owner angered Pochettino.

Pochettino publicly mocked the idea of ​​dead-ball specialists last February. In March, Chelsea moved to appoint Bernardo Cueva as Brentford’s new set-piece coach. Sources told ESPN that question marks have been raised over the nature of some of Chelsea’s signings made before Pochettino’s appointment. Some within the club began to express concerns about the fragile nature of Chelsea’s form, as they struggled to hold on to winning positions and were often riddled with individual errors. Winning the Carabao Cup final in February would have given Pochettino a trophy to hold as tangible evidence of progress, but a series of missed chances against a weakened Liverpool side opened the door for the Blues to be dealt a powerful punch in the 118th minute.

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Pochettino’s anger began to grow. Chelsea’s injury list was often double figures – the main striker Christopher Nkunku He ended up starting two matches throughout the season – and in mid-March, he held off the Tour program from their unconvincing FA Cup quarter-final win over Leicester City to cite all the youngsters on the roster to combat the idea that he still had too many options.

Pochettino said angrily: “People say: What a great team.” “But did you see the names? [pointing] Under-18, under-18, under-18, under-18, under-21, under-21, under-21. And sometimes you can confuse people, you know: “the big band.”

“Do you know why we use so many players that we put here? Because we use this guy for a few minutes in the Carabao Cup or in the FA Cup or in the Premier League because of the circumstances.”

Once again, the cup competition offered potential redemption, but in a worrying consistency for all involved, they squandered a host of chances as Manchester City won the FA Cup semi-final 1-0.

By the final few weeks of the season, Pochettino could no longer hide his annoyance at the lack of fan support. Buhli had spoken of the “beautiful football” that Chelsea played in two and a half matches against Aston Villa, Tottenham, and West Ham. Iqbali remained silent. On 11 May, Pochettino said “it wouldn’t be the end of the world” if he left Chelsea this summer, citing his need to feel happy at the club in the face of repeated questions about whether the owners were satisfied with his performances. . Although they moved up to sixth place above Newcastle and Manchester United, both sides decided enough was enough.

Pochettino met Buhle for dinner last Friday, shortly before Chelsea’s final match against Bournemouth on Sunday at Stamford Bridge, after which the Argentine did not address fans in the manner of many other managers.

The club’s end-of-season review began on Monday. When assistant coach Jesus Pérez and other members of Pochettino’s coaching staff left for their holidays, Pochettino remained in London and met with Eghbali, Winstanley and Stewart. The talks were said to be friendly, but all parties acknowledged that an end point had been reached. The club’s statement that followed on Tuesday reflected that sentiment, with Winstanley and Stewart insisting Pochettino is “welcome at any time” at Stamford Bridge.

Perhaps he will not accept this invitation in the near future. For now, this is probably what’s best for everyone involved.

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