How Pochettino Might Have Improved Chelsea

As things stand, Chelsea is 11th in the Premier League with 11 games left to play. They are one position ahead of where they finished the 2022/23 season. This says a lot about whether Chelsea have improved since last season.

However, one cannot look at just league position when analyzing Chelsea’s progress. Style of play, goal-scoring ability, defensive strength and individual player growth are all things to consider, alongside league position. Without a doubt, Chelsea have looked like a more confident side this season compared to the last, and have improved in certain areas of the game.

Areas of no Improvement

Last season in the Premier League, Chelsea conceded 47 goals. Last season, Chelsea’s strongest attributes were far from goal-scoring prowess, and they also struggled in goal. Despite the Blues not having the strongest defence in the league, it was a pretty formidable defence, especially with Thiago Silva standing strong in central defence. On many occasions, Chelsea’s backline was their saving grace.

This season, however, that has not been the case. Chelsea has already conceded 45 goals in the Premier League. Despite great signings installed into the backline, Chelsea’s defence appears to have weakened, making it harder for the team to earn clean sheets. An injury crisis has been the greatest cause for this, with Chelsea being left without fullbacks often. For one, Chelsea’s Captain and Vice Captain, Reece James and Ben Chilwell have spent a large part of this season out of action due to injury.

Malo Gusto, a right-back that Chelsea bought from Lyon last summer has been a great replacement for Reece James but has also been sidelined due to injury or suspensions several times this season. Such scenarios have led to Mauricio Pochettino having to play centre-backs as left-backs and right-backs. The lack of presence of natural fullbacks in the game has often let Chelsea down this season and has been the reason for not only defensive errors, but lack of offensive threats.

Areas of growth

Without a doubt, Chelsea’s biggest problem last season was that they were not scoring enough goals. Last season, Chelsea scored a total of only 38 goals. Between November 2022 and February 2023, Graham Potter’s Blues only managed to score six goals in the Premier League.

Chelsea’s top scorer last season was Kai Havertz who had nine goals in all competitions, with seven coming from the Premier League. This season, however, there is a huge contrast. The current top scorer is new signing Cole Palmer with 14 goals in all competitions, with 11 Premier League goals. Cole Palmer now sits at the top with Real Madrid star Jude Bellingham in the under-21 list for most goal contributions with 19 goal contributions each in the Premier League and La Liga respectively.

Havertz served as Chelsea’s main striker, and his replacement following his departure to Arsenal in the 2023 summer transfer window was Senegalese Nicolas Jackson. Although not entirely clinical in front of the goal, Jackson has proven himself a worthy replacement for the German.

Jackson, just like Palmer has already surpassed Havertz’ goal tally from last season. In all competitions, Jackson has scored 12 goals, with nine coming from the Premier League.

Mykhalio Mudryk who had struggled to score last season, has now managed to score 6 goals in all competitions so far.

Another area that Chelsea has improved, is in the goalkeeper department. Robert Sánchez was signed from Brighton before the start of the current season. Following Kepa Arrizabalaga’s loan to Real Madrid at the start of the season, Sánchez was promoted to first-choice goalkeeper. Sánchez was off to a good start, having some particularly impressive moments in his first few games, already proving to be a valuable replacement.

He went through a shakey path, before eventually succumbing to an injury. Called up to take Sánchez’s place in goal was new signing, Đorđe Petrović. Petrović instantly proved his place, earning adoration from Chelsea fans. The Serbian goalkeeper has proven to be a great penalty stopper and has retained his place in goal despite Sánchez’s return from injury. Sánchez got a chance to return in goal in Chelsea’s 4-2 FA Cup win against Leicester City on Sunday. This suggests that Sánchez might be used in cups, while Petrović keeps the starting role.

What this means for Pochettino

Although Chelsea might still have no clear style of play and make no good impressions on the Premier League table, it is clear that the Argentine has made some improvements. In particular, he seems to have addressed Chelsea’s biggest problem last season, goal scoring. However, Chelsea won only 11 games last season, and so far this season, they have won only 11.

The pressure on Mauricio Pochettino to win more games grows by the second. However, the injury crisis also grows by the second. A young squad full of new players, a multitude of injuries and new ownership still getting into the grips of the business does make things harder for Pochettino.

As things stand, Chelsea are set to go on with Pochettino. How Chelsea will perform in their remaining Premier League fixtures and in the remaining FA Cup stages might determine the club’s and Pochettino’s future.

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