Mauricio Pochettino: Five key issues the new Chelsea manager needs to address

The Argentine is tasked with rebuilding an unbalanced squad low on confidence after a miserable season

Mauricio Pochettino has been appointed Chelsea manager and is tasked with reviving the club after a miserable season. Reuters
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Chelsea's search for their next permanent manager concluded with the appointment of Mauricio Pochettino on a two-year deal, which will start on July 1. There is an option to extend for a further year.

The Argentine is a familiar figure in the Premier League following his largely successful five-year spell in charge of Chelsea's London rivals Tottenham and his season-and-a-half at Southampton. Pochettino's most recent job was at Paris Saint-Germain and he has been out of work since July last year after 19 months in the French capital.

Chelsea will hope Pochettino is suitably rested and refreshed because there are plenty of issues to address if he is to transform the club's fortunes after a miserable season.

Here are five of the biggest problems.

Fix a bloated, unbalanced squad

Chelsea's massive squad is well documented, with stories of players changing in the corridors and sitting on the floor during team meetings because there isn't enough space to accommodate everyone.

Around £600 million was spent on 16 players during the new owners' first season and, while it's allowed the Blues to recruit several highly rated players, it has left the squad bloated and unbalanced. Chelsea have eight central midfielders and six wide forwards, but remain over-reliant on Ben Chilwell and Reece James at full-back.

In Kai Havertz , the Blues have one of the most talented No 10s in Europe but no recognised centre-forward beyond an apathetic Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Defensively, the team is in good shape – Chelsea have the joint-third meanest defence this season – but there is a severe lack of cohesion in the team.

Pochettino needs to take a metaphorical axe to the squad and trim it down to a more manageable size. Otherwise, he will face the same selection and management problems as Graham Potter and Frank Lampard.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was marginalised in his debut season, despite Chelsea's lack of senior strikers. EPA

Solve the striker issue

Defensively sound and stacked with talent in midfield and wide areas, yet Chelsea finished 12th in the final standings. The problem has been obvious and long-standing: a lack of goals. Only Wolves (31), Everton (34) scored fewer than Chelsea's 36 goals this season.

While the team's struggles for cohesion and confidence can be partly to blame, the absence of a top-level and recognised striker has been an issue for some time.

Romelu Lukaku was meant to be the answer when he returned to Stamford Bridge in a then club record move in August 2021 but was shipped back on loan to Inter Milan after one unhappy season. Lukaku has belatedly found form in Italy, so it will be interesting to see if Pochettino tries to convince the Belgian to give Chelsea one more go.

Whether Lukaku returns or not, identifying a striker to spearhead his team and supply the goals needs to be a top priority for Pochettino.

Edouard Mendy and Kepa Arrizabalaga vie for Chelsea's No 1 jersey. AFP

Goalkeeper dilemma

Not so long ago, Chelsea were blessed with the problem of whether to make Petr Cech or Thibaut Courtois their No 1 goalkeeper. Pochettino now faces a very different issue regarding the man between the sticks.

Kepa Arrizabalaga, the goalkeeper signed in a world-record deal to succeed Courtois, endured such a challenging start to life at Chelsea that Edouard Mendy was brought in to solve the issue. The Senegalese appeared to be the answer but he, too, suffered a prolonged dip in form and has struggled with injury this season.

Kepa has improved since that first disastrous year but the Spaniard can hardly be regarded as among the best goalkeepers in the world.

If Chelsea want to quickly get back to challenging for trophies, they need an elite goalkeeper. Pochettino will need to decide whether Mendy can rediscover his best form or enter the market for a new No 1.

Todd Boehly's first season of ownership was fraught with challenges. EPA

Take control of football matters

It should be the very minimum responsibility of a football manager but interference from owners and boardrooms has become increasingly common.

Chelsea co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali have made several major decisions in their first season in charge, many of which have contributed to the club's instability. A scattergun transfer policy, the firing of key executives like Cech and Marina Granovskaia to hand Boehly more control over sporting and technical matters, and even regular visits to the dressing room have painted a picture of a dysfunctional club.

It was reported that Pochettino was initially hesitant to become the new manager due to the owners' prominent involvement but the Argentine has received assurances that he will have greater control over football matters. That will need to include a central role in transfer incomings and outgoings, working directly with co-sporting directors Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley, and limiting the dressing room appearances from the owners.

Chelsea's confidence has been severely affected by a run of poor results. AFP

Instil belief and confidence

In the midst of their seven-match losing run, one of Lampard's observations was of a team "low on confidence". That much has been obvious throughout the season.

Chelsea have had no problems controlling possession and creating chances but their lack of a killer instinct in front of goal and poor game management have been their downfall – clear signs of a team struggling for form and belief.

Those negative vibes have permeated throughout the fan base, making Stamford Bridge a bleak and depressing place as supporters grew tired of underwhelming performances and poor results.

Pochettino needs to ensure this season's misery is quickly banished to the past. He will need to instil belief in his squad and get them fully prepared to start the new campaign in a positive frame of mind. If he can do that, Chelsea have enough talent to string a run of wins together and rediscover the feel-good factor both among his players and around the stadium.

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Updated: May 30, 2023, 4:28 AM