MAURICIO POCHETTINO is the man Chelsea have chosen to take them back to the Champions League.
But it's safe to say it's not all going to plan so far.
The Blues' disastrous 22/23 season – despite significant investment from new owners Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital – saw the Blues finish 12th in the Premier League and completely miss European qualification.
This summer saw club chiefs double down on their strategy, leading to eight players arriving led by £115million signing Moises Caicedo.
In football, however, spending on transfers is not a direct guarantee of success.
And Pochettino has taken time to find the best system of play for the squad that he now has at Stamford Bridge.
READ MORE IN FOOTBALL
Mudryk shows off inspirational custom shin pads after first Chelsea goal
Chelsea hit by another injury blow as Ben Chilwell is ruled out until DECEMBER
Chelsea have played seven league games this season and, after beating Fulham on Monday night, they have moved up to 11th place with eight points following a slow start to the campaign.
Their strong performance on Monday showed definite signs of improvement in terms of individual players starting to play up to their potential. But how has Pochettino managed this?
In this article, we will identify three key points showing what Pochettino has been getting right… and three he has been getting WRONG so far this season.
The rejuvenation of Sterling
When Raheem Sterling moved from Manchester City to Chelsea in 2022 it was expected the England international would be a key player for the London club going forward.
Most read in Football
Heartbreak for Man Utd legend Sir Alex Ferguson as wife Cathy dies age 84
Pogba facing FOUR-YEAR ban with positive doping test as Juve ‘ready to axe deal’
WORLD’S GONE MAD
Southgate slams World Cup 2030 plans and says integrity has been trashed
2030 World Cup covering half the globe is ugly kick in teeth for fans
Sterling developed into an extremely dangerous player who could be a real difference maker in the final third as he improved his finishing while at Man City.
But, despite registering 11 goals and five assists across all competitions, there was a sense of disappointment in terms of how Sterling was used and how he was performing for Chelsea last term.
This season there has been a marked improvement not only with Sterling's end product but also with the chances he is creating with his movement and link play in the final third.
Although Sterling has been played predominantly on the right side, we have also seen him spend time so far this season from the left and through the centre.
It is clear that Pochettino’s coaching style has helped the forward find his form again.
Last season, one of the biggest issues Chelsea faced was the lack of genuine goalscoring opportunities they created.
While ball progression was generally okay, in terms of being able to move the ball up the pitch, we often saw the play break down in the final third.
Indeed, last season Chelsea scored just 38 goals in the Premier League as they struggled to find any rhythm in the attacking third of the pitch.
One of the biggest changes we have seen this season has been Enzo Fernandez moving to a more advanced position in the midfield.
When he initially joined Chelsea from Benfica it was primarily to play at the base of the midfield.
Now, we are seeing Fernandez push forward to play more like an eight.
In these positions, Fernandez has the quality to play the decisive pass that can break the last line and create goalscoring opportunities for the forward and wingers in the opposition penalty area.
Creating chances is, of course, only one part of the process and we have still seen Chelsea struggle to finish at any reasonable volume. More on that later though.
Getting Enzo the ball
We touched on this in the last section but it is such an important point that it is more than worth repeating.
So far this season we have seen Pochettino really work to unlock the potential of Fernandez as Chelsea’s key player.
Pochettino has been keen to make sure Fernandez is getting on the ball all over the pitch and he has not been limited to just sitting in deep positions.
Fernandez been involved all over the pitch in terms of receiving the ball in the defensive third, the middle third and the attacking third and combining with others all over the pitch.
Under Pochettino we have seen far more examples of Fernandez making forward runs off the ball to give his team the option to pass into space.
He is a progressive passer in deeper areas but his movement and ability to find space in the final third has become one of the key aspects of Chelsea improving their chance creation.
Now, let’s move on to the bad under Pochettino...
Chilwell as a left-winger
For all of the investment in the first-team squad over the last 12 month,s and despite spending a huge amount on Mykhalio Mudryk, Ben Chilwell has been used as a left-winger by Pochettino.
This has largely been a result of the system used by the former Spurs manager.
He has played Levi Colwill as a left-back to create a back three when Chelsea are in possession, allowing Chilwell to push forward and be the most advanced player on the left side of the pitch.
Chelsea fans have been increasingly frustrated with Pochettino when seeing Chilwell act as the attacking option wide on the left.
While there have been times where Fernandez has rotated out to this position we have seen Chilwell occupying this role more regularly, at least over the first few games of the season.
Now, however, with Mudryk finally opened his goal account for Chelsea against Fulham, we may see Chilwell revert to his more familiar left-back role while Mudryk plays left wing.
Using Gallagher as a deep midfielder
It has been clear from the start of the season that Pochettino rates the English international midfielder Conor Gallagher extremely highly.
But, while he has been used as a more advanced box-crashing midfielder in previous years, Pochettino has instead deployed him in a deeper role this season.
This has seen Gallagher used as part of a double pivot and, while he is a capable midfielder, his technical ability when receiving under pressure has at times let him down at times.
The idea to use Gallagher in deeper spaces is in part to allow Fernandez, to move into higher positions.
Gallagher showed the best form in his career at Crystal Palace where he was allowed to play as the most advanced midfielder with freedom to press high and break into the opposition area.
And, on Monday night against Fulham, Gallagher performed well in this role, with Fernandez and Moises Caicedo picking up the ball deeper.
Perhaps the slow start to the season for Chelsea can be put down to having a number of players, like Gallagher, try to get used to a new role.
Why can’t they take their chances?
While Chelsea's chance creation has improved this season, they have struggled to convert these chances, with Pochettino struggling to find the right combination of attacking players.
In part, this can be put down to players being used in different roles or out of position, like Fernandez adapting to playing higher and Chilwell being used as an advanced left-sided player.
We have seen Chelsea consistently create high quality opportunities – outlined by the fact they are yet to lose a game on Expected Goals this season – but they have not finished with any real standard.
With Nicolas Jackson struggling to adapt to the English game, Pochettino has found it difficult to find a regular goal scorer.
This week saw the return of Armando Broja to the starting XI, and he scored the second goal for Chelsea vs Fulham.
It is possible Pochettino will now see his team start to become more decisive in front of goal, as he has the option to rest Jackson in favour of Broja as the central striker.
Pochettino is a good coach and, as things are starting to turn around, we are likely to see Chelsea go from strength to strength.
The bottom line
On the surface, performances and results for Chelsea at the start of this season have not been up to standard.
If you look more closely, however, then you can see that they have been creating chances and actually playing quite well.
Read More on The Sun
Thief stole my £2k camera from beach – then wrote to tell me it was karma
I’m Queen of being a s**t mum and forgot my kid when I went to Tesco
They just have not managed to get the results that you might have expected them to.
Do you want more than just a match report when it comes to your football content? Get the daily tactical analysis, data and scouting from Total Football Analysis for just £5.20 per month. You get 10+ articles per week, 2x digital magazines per month and access to our huge archive of articles, reports and more!
Source: Read Full Article