Mauricio Pochettino leaves Chelsea despite progress as club plays again | Football news

Mauricio Pochettino had calmed down by the time he entered the Stamford Bridge press conference room after Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Tottenham, but his interview with Aerial sportsshortly before, showed the tension bubbling beneath the surface.

“I think that’s enough,” he said when asked about the continued speculation surrounding his future at the club. “All managers need time to translate their ideas and philosophies. It is difficult to see every week that I am scrutinized and judged.”

It was early May, at the start of a five-game winning streak that propelled Chelsea into Europe. But the tension between the head coach and the owners, seen that evening at Stamford Bridge, persisted. Pochettino’s irritation began to look more like resignation.

“Maybe we’re not happy because we came here with a job to do, but in the end it’s not what we expected,” he said before Chelsea’s trip at Nottingham Forest, a week after the match against Spurs.

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Paul Merson thinks Chelsea allowing Mauricio Pochettino to leave club by mutual consent is ‘madness’

“If we break up, it’s no problem. It won’t be the end of the world.”

His departure, confirmed on Tuesday, two days after the conclusion of a stormy season, was agreed by mutual agreement, according to the club, reflecting the doubts on both sides. But it’s hard to ignore the feeling that progress is stalled even as it accelerates.

Of course, Pochettino ultimately failed to achieve the Champions League result he aimed for at the start of the campaign. His Chelsea side recorded the club’s worst defensive record in the Premier League era, scoring four or more goals on five occasions.

But Graham Potter, Pochettino’s predecessor, may have been right when he called the job “the hardest in football”. The club spent heavily on young players, seemingly without regard to how exactly they would fit into a team.

Even with 39-year-old Thiago Silva starting regularly, Chelsea’s team was the youngest in the Premier League this season and the fourth youngest in the competition’s history.

Their relative inexperience is virtually unprecedented for a team with top-four ambitions, as is the strategy with which they have approached the transfer market.

While other clubs, like Arsenal under Mikel Arteta and Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp, have built their squads gradually, Chelsea have tried to speed up the process, cramming 32 signings into four windows since buying Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital.

It’s no wonder, amid all this upheaval, that performances have been chaotic at times and problems have been compounded by widespread injury problems this season, with Chelsea ranking behind Newcastle and Sheffield United in terms of days lost due to injury.

Despite all these challenges, and despite the fact that some fans never really liked him, Pochettino has retained the support of his players, with Nicolas Jackson, Cole Palmer, Moises Caicedo and Marc Cucurella among those who have expressed their sadness at his departure.

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Nicolas Jackson, Marc Cucurella and Cole Palmer react to news of Mauricio Pochettino’s departure from Chelsea

The Argentine was hired largely due to his track record of developing players like these and he has certainly delivered on that front with Palmer, a revelation following his move from Manchester City, and with Jackson , who finished a difficult campaign strongly.

Pochettino also got upgrades from Noni Madueke, Malo Gusto, Trevoh Chalobah and Conor Gallagher, among others.

This wasn’t always evident amid their inconsistent results, but Chelsea gradually improved throughout the season, with their rolling points per game average over five games trending upward after dismal returns under Potter and the interim boss Frank Lampard.

Finishing chances were a major issue, as had been the case under his predecessors, dating back to Antonio Conte’s tenure.

But Pochettino can hardly be held responsible for the decision-making that left Jackson, a 22-year-old with just half a season of top-flight experience behind him, as his main striking option, and even his only striking option after the January window.

The team’s wayward finishing, coupled with costly – and frequent – individual errors at the other end of the pitch, masked encouraging overall performance levels.

Chelsea’s expected goal difference, a metric used by clubs to evaluate performance that effectively measures the quality of chances a team creates versus those they concede, places them behind Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool this season.

But all this evidence of progress ultimately had only limited importance for the club’s decision-makers. And although this is a supposedly long-term project focused on maximizing the potential of a young team, it is a goal that Pochettino was working towards.

No compromise could be found to continue together and the result is that, just as things were falling into place on the pitch, Chelsea are at it again, seeking the club’s sixth permanent appointment in five years – and fourth in two under the new owners.

Their announced shortlist adds to the feeling that this is another gamble. Bookies’ favorite Roberto De Zerbi has never managed an elite team. How would his style of play translate?

Kieran McKenna has done wonders at Ipswich, but how are they to know he is ready for a move of this magnitude?

With Pochettino now gone, those tensions beneath the surface ultimately leading to a breaking point, Chelsea must prepare to roll the dice once more and face the possibility of further steps backwards before once again finding a way forward.