‘primitive’ training, increase in injuries and market discrepancies

Mauricio Pochettino had a demanding season at Chelsea, one of the clubs that invested the most in the last transfer market with 500 million euros, and which ended after the first chapter. Although his contract contemplated a one-year extension, the Argentine coach agreed this week to leave him with the leadership of the London club. A couple of days after the announcement, the American portal ‘The Athletic’ compiled a series of voices among players, employees and managers that delved into the reasons for the separation.

The media clarified that it kept them anonymous to preserve their sources, but stressed that beyond the sporting arguments that led to the decision, he was also praised for his human warmth and the respect with which he behaved towards the different areas of work. from the training ground at Cobham. In fact, curiosities of destiny, The man from Rosario will return to the Stamford Bridge stadium on June 9 to lead the Rest of the World team against an England XI at the UNICEF Soccer Aid.

But in reality there were also hiccups. Pochettino knew beforehand that taking a team from 12th place to the top of the Premier League would be difficult, beyond that stratospheric spending in the market, which had been added to another 500 million that he had invested in the previous window.

He only won one of his first six games at Chelsea, perhaps mitigated by the tactical adjustment that Christopher Nkunku’s injury forced him to make in the last friendly of the preseason, which considerably lowered the projections of the team’s scoring effectiveness, bought by the investment fund conglomerate Clearlake Capital and Todd Boehly.

Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP

And the doubts about the results also reached Pochettino’s head, who even doubted the world champion’s ability. Enzo Fernandez and the Ecuadorian Moisés Caicedo to dominate the midfield in an elite world tournament like the Premier.

In public he had plenty of words of praise for Fernández, but in private – always according to The Athletic – he questioned whether he was “destructive enough to be number 6 -defensive midfielder- or creative enough to be number 8 -internal midfielder-“.

“Chelsea insist that Pochettino supported the signing of Caicedo from Brighton for a transfer fee likely to reach a British record £115 million, and that he never expressed any internal reservations about the Ecuadorian or Fernandez,” the article clarified.

Perhaps that is why the midfielder who played the most minutes in the season was the youth squad Conor Gallagherthe main candidate to be sold by Chelsea, which in the midst of searching for its new manager is trying to comply with the financial regulations of the Premier League and UEFA to avoid sanctions that worsen the situation.

In addition to its problems in goal – he replaced starter Robert Sánchez with MLS newcomer Djordje Petrovic – the team would have had even lower quality in attack if the club’s recruiting department had not presented the option of Cole Palmer in September, convincing the owners to spend £40m.

Photo: Glyn KIRK / AFP

“Pochettino may have been among those wondering whether a 21-year-old (now 22) with just three Premier League starts could be the answer, but it must be acknowledged that the head coach brought out the best in Palmer, who ended the season as Chelsea’s player of the year by far,” he said.

There were also discussions on the market exchange. Pochettino rejected Ansu Fati, offered by Barcelona in Spain, but did ask to sign “two experienced players who had already played with him” to add experience and knowledge to a young squad. “That request was rejected.”indicated The Athletic.

The youth of the team was such that the third goalkeeper Marcus Bettinellia popular veteran with an 11-year career at the club but with only one game played at Chelsea, “discussed topics such as players’ days off and club fines with Pochettino.”

Non-stop training that increased injuries

In sports, injuries were a key factor in the crisis of results throughout the season. The report from the American portal detailed that the number of days accumulated due to player injuries almost doubled from one season to the next. It went from 1277 in 2022/2023 to 2170 in the one that just ended.

“We (the staff) came from a different club, not from Mars, to manage the footballers”was Pochettino’s response, angry, when in a press conference he was consulted about the criticism he received regarding the low use of some players in training.

Photo: Reuters/Matthew ChildsPhoto: Reuters/Matthew Childs

“Others who observed Pochettino’s sessions, often led by assistant Jesus Perez, insist that Chelsea players were overworked and had to run excessively at high intensity. The demands of the sessions were a topic of conversation among the players; how there were so many exercises, whether one against one, two against two, etc., with the responsibility always of pressing and recovering the ball,” stated the newspaper article.

He added: “It is also claimed that the tendency for recovering players to return to full training rather than adapting it too quickly resulted in new injuries.”

It was also revealed that “some players considered the training sessions to be tactically primitive, with relatively few detailed instructions given and improvisation encouraged.” An example of this, according to the source cited by The Athletic, was that a player found out that he was going to have a role that he had never played or trained at the time of announcing the starting team. Pochettino only repeated the team three times throughout the season from one game to the next.

Of the call that never reached the final meeting

There was a phrase from the Rosario coach in a press conference that mobilized the foundations of Chelsea’s structure regarding its future. “The entire organization is to blame for the season’s problems. My responsibility is for the team to perform. But the club is designing and planning a structure that must be proven to work. From the results, you can say, yes, it’s just He (the coach). But I don’t have the key to the club. I don’t make all the decisions here. That must be made clear,” he said on April 26, before facing Aston Villa.

This aimed directly at co-sports directors Paul Winstanley and Laurence Stewart, in office since February 2023, when they received power from owners Clearlake Capital and Todd Boehly, who landed at the London club after the departure of Roman Abramovich.

“Pochettino’s claim in the same April 26 press conference that he had not spoken to the owners for two months set tongues wagging, but the reality is that there had been contact with Clearlake co-founders Behdad Eghbali and José Feliciano,” said The Athletic.

Todd Boehly. Photo: EFE/EPA/NEIL HALLTodd Boehly. Photo: EFE/EPA/NEIL HALL

The man from Rosario hoped to receive a call of support after the defeat against Wolverhampton (2-4) that took the team to 11th place in the standings. “At this moment we feel loneliness. We were alone there after the game. Wait. We were there for two hours… A long time after the game we were there, looking at each other, the five coaching staff in a very small room. We were sadder. It was an unfair situation we were in. It was a situation that we did not deserve, but the result put us in a very difficult situation,” Pochettino said at a press conference.

“But managing this particular relationship was not easy for Pochettino either. He found the internal politics at the club difficult and, in particular, the alleged tensions between Boehly and Eghbali: Chelsea have always denied that the two men fell out,” said The Athletic. .

While Boehly joined virtually, it was Eghbali who was present in person with Chelsea’s two sporting directors during the six hours of discussions over two days in Cobham. Pochettino attended that meeting alone, as his assistant Pérez had flown back to Spain.

The result was what was announced this week, despite the five consecutive wins at the end of the season. “On behalf of everyone at Chelsea, we would like to express our gratitude to Mauricio for his service this season. He will be welcome back to Stamford Bridge at any time and we wish him all the best in his future coaching career,” was the brief statement with the one who greeted Pochettino.

 
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