Mauricio Pochettino has a lot to do once he arrives at Stamford Bridge including cutting down an extremely bloated squad down to size following Todd Boehly’s eye-watering splurge
Chelsea’s manager-in-waiting will have to restore harmony at Stamford Bridge because of the number of disaffected players. They have ended up with so many players that they cannot fit them all in the dressing room let alone the Premier League’s 25 man squad for next season.
The stories of players having to change in the corridors at their Cobham training ground have become the stuff of legend before the club managed to get them all in. Nothing is worse at any club than an unhappy player who is not getting any game time but can bring down the mood with negativity and resentment. Chelsea need a smaller, better and happier squad.
Pochettino has undoubtedly been hired because of his ability as a coach but, during his time at Tottenham, he was the master at building a strong team spirit and dressing room culture. The Argentine will have to be as much diplomat as football manager to cope with a bloated squad after Chelsea owner Todd Boehly spent £600m over the past two windows.
But there is one common theme in Pochettino’s success story and that is homegrown players because they set the tone for the whole club, identifying with the fans and also giving everything for the team. They will have to sell this summer to balance the books after missing out on European football for next season and to also fall into line with financial limits after their massive spending sprees.
Chelsea will maximise their income if they cash in on homegrown players but that is one area which Pochettino will definitely try to build on. England midfielder Mason Mount has one year left on his current deal and is a target for Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal are also watching developments.
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Mount’s contract stand-off with Chelsea is heartbreaking for many fans who regard him as one of their own and they want to see him stay. Chelsea’s on-loan Levi Colwill is another who has been left uncertain about his future as he wants to play and has benefitted from his time at Brighton this season. He is outstanding on the ball, steps into midfield and at just 20, he is a huge prospect.
Colwill is a left footer, seen as a future England International centre half by Gareth Southgate and yet there is a reluctance to return to his parent club because he fears he will not play. Chelsea spent £32.7m on left footed centre half Benoit Badiashile from Monaco which raised big doubts as to whether Colwill has a future at Stamford Bridge.
But Pochettino is anxious to build his team around young, exciting talent and Colwill – who still has two years left on his deal plus a further option – will be at the heart of that.
Conor Gallagher is another who has been wanted by Newcastle but is a typical Pochettino player while Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s future may be less certain as he only has a year left. Callum Hudson-Odoi has almost become the forgotten man while on loan at Bayer Leverkusen.
Chelsea also need a centre forward and Pochettino does plan to talk to Romelu Lukaku whose loan at Inter Milan expires this summer. There has to be departures to balance the books and N’Golo Kante still has not committed to a new deal while Mateo Kovacic and Edouard Mendy could also go in the shake-up.
But Pochettino will have to show a willingness to make big signings like Mykhailo Mudryk and Raheem Sterling work. Sterling is the experienced, quality player who can bring something to a young dressing room and be viewed as a good example for young players.
Mudryk was a huge signing but has yet to click, although there have been flashes of his pace, close control and potential. Again, it would be unthinkable to give up at this stage.
Tottenham’s identity was very clear during Pochettino’s reign at Stamford Bridge. Players like Harry Kane were vital as homegrown heroes together with the experience of Hugo Lloris, Jan Vertonghen and quality of Mousa Dembele. Pochettino’s first and biggest task is to stamp his authority on Chelsea and give the team they can identify with and be proud of.