Mauricio Pochettino is set to begin the job of rebuilding Chelsea after signing a three-year deal to become their head coach.
Chelsea, who have endured a campaign to forget since last year’s £2.5bn takeover by Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital, have been under pressure to make the right appointment since sacking Graham Potter. They have had four managers this season and finished in the bottom half of the Premier League for the first time since 1996 after drawing 1-1 with Newcastle at Stamford Bridge yesterday.
The chaos began when Boehly and Clearlake, which was founded by Behdad Eghbali and Jose Feliciano, fired the popular Thomas Tuchel last September. Chelsea took Potter from Brighton but the appointment backfired. Potter was fired and Bruno Saltor took charge of one game before Frank Lampard was made interim head coach.
Lampard has been unable to inspire an improvement and Chelsea, who have spent close to £600m on signings since last summer, will hope Pochettino can lift them. The appointment of the former Tottenham manager, out of work since leaving Paris Saint-Germain last year, should be announced this week. The search was led by Chelsea’s sporting directors, Paul Winstanley and Laurence Stewart.
Pochettino emerged as the favoured choice after Chelsea conducted an exhaustive process during which they held talks with the former Bayern Munich manager Julian Nagelsmann and the former Spain manager Luis Enrique. The Argentinian has a strong track record of working with young players and his man-management skills are impressive.
Pochettino will inherit an unhappy, bloated squad and Chelsea, who have finished 12th, will need to sell players. They will prioritise signing a central midfielder and are chasing Sporting Lisbon’s Manuel Ugarte, who is a target for Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain.
Chelsea will not be playing in Europe next season and there is pressure on the board after a troubled campaign. But there is a belief that Pochettino is the man to steady the ship. His backroom staff will include his No 2, Jesús Pérez, his first-team coach, Miguel D’Agostino, his goalkeeping coach, Toni Jiménez, and his son Sebastiano, a sports scientist.
After the Newcastle game Lampard was asked about Pochettino. “I don’t want to get caught on the appointment until it comes,” he said. “I am a big fan of Pochettino as a manager. He is a very good manager but it’s not about which individual it might be, it is about getting the right, high level of manager.
“Of course, Pochettino’s history tells you he works with clubs of this level. Let him get to work with the players to create a solid identity of a team that can win more games. Those things are not always overnight things. We have to be careful with expectations a bit. There is a lot of work to be done.skip past newsletter promotion
“Standards collectively have dropped. I can say that now as it’s my last game because I may not see some of them again. Standards as a collective for a club like Chelsea have to be at a maximum or you won’t compete physically or play at a high level and high speed which is what the Premier League demands.
“If you are not vocal in the dressing room and driving each other on … Any top team has to have that. I could see we didn’t when I came in. A very good manager will help with that but everyone has to take responsibility for that.”
There was an insistence from Lampard that he will be back in management. “It’s not affected my drive to do this job. I enjoy the job. I understand sometimes it can look a bit fruitless from the outside if you’re not getting the results but every manager will go through a variation of that in some way. I’ll have a break first then see.”