Why Chelsea's shock managerial move should send the fans into meltdown

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Reports suggest that Chelsea could be on the verge of another managerial change - but would moving on from Mauricio Pochettino be a good idea?

We’re two years and two weeks into the post-Abramovich era at Chelsea, and we’ve learned much about how the consortium, headed by Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali’s Clearlake Capital, conduct their business – in short, that when they see a shiny object they can’t help but buy it, and when they see their own foot, they can’t help but try to shoot it.

The latter conclusion can be drawn more confidently after The Guardian reported that Chelsea are considering removing Mauricio Pochettino from his position as head coach after just one season in charge, with Ipswich Town’s Kieran McKenna targeted as a possible replacement. There is no reason to doubt McKenna’s qualities as a manager or to suggest that he doesn’t deserve a plum job in the Premier League, but there is every indication that sacking Pochettino would be an act of self-harm.

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Pochettino has already revealed that he had a meal with Boehly on Friday evening, ahead of Chelsea’s final-day victory over Bournemouth – their fifth win on the bounce. The Argentine seemed fairly sanguine about the likely outcome of that dinner and the performance review the club are undertaking - he sounded like a man who would greet news of his own sacking with something of a shrug.

“It was a very nice dinner together but I don’t know about the rumours of the review… I’m going to stay a few more days in London,” he told the media. “My door is open and my phone is going to be on.”

There has always been the sense of a slightly strained relationship between Pochettino and his bosses, with influence over transfer decisions something of a sticking point – although Chelsea kept Conor Gallagher to accommodate the wishes of manager (and fans), they appear to be persisting with an attempt to sell him this summer – and the former Tottenham Hotspur manager hasn’t developed the best relationship with the supporters in the stands, either.

Pochettino has always been a diplomat by nature, and he certainly hasn’t publicly criticised the owners or fans as some managers might, but it was perhaps notable that he didn’t appear for the post-season ‘lap of appreciation’ around Stamford Bridge, which he claimed was because he was pulled away by the club’s press office. Or perhaps it wasn’t notable at all, and he has been perfectly content in handling the derision that was voiced most loudly during March’s 2-2 draw against Brentford.

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But between boos from the crowd and his awkward bosses in the boardroom, perhaps his laconic attitude towards his future employment prospects is less a reflection of his inherently relaxed demeanour and more a consequence of how difficult it’s been to actively enjoy this job.

He should probably be getting more appreciation from the fanbase as a whole – and from his paymasters – than he has done. Pochettino took over a side which had sunk deep into the mire after Frank Lampard’s baffling and mercifully brief second spell as head coach, and while he didn’t click his fingers and transform them overnight by any means, the forward progress is evident.

In 2024, Chelsea have lost just four out of their 27 matches – two narrow defeats in the final and semi-finals of the main cup competitions to Liverpool and Manchester City, a 4-2 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers and an admittedly awful 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Arsenal. That last performance was dire, but instead of marking a new descent into the depths, Pochettino got his team back to form immediately – a creditable 2-2 draw at Villa Park followed before the five successful league wins with which they ended the campaign and earned them qualification for European competition next season.

It hasn’t all been sweetness and roses – the 2-2 draws against Brentford, Burnley and Sheffield United suggested a team which has plenty of frailties that need fixing, especially in defence – but overall the results have improved vastly, as have performances, both as a team and on an individual level. Just look at Nicolas Jackson.

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Pochettino hasn’t worked miracles, but given where they were when he took over, he’s done an unequivocally impressive job, especially down the home straight. Had he started well and declined, a few jitters would be understandable. Instead, he has improved Chelsea slowly but consistently throughout the course of the season.

And, lest we forget, he has to do so despite a pretty breathtaking number of injuries – only Manchester United and Newcastle United have had to deal with the same volume of fitness problems, and Pochettino navigated them better than either Erik ten Hag or Eddie Howe could. Reece James, the club captain, has been out for huge tranches of the season, while big-money signings like Christoper Nkunku, Roméo Lavia and Wesley Fofana have barely figured, if at all. That’s around £180m worth of players who have hardly touched grass over the past year, and there have been far more injury cases than that.

In other words, despite taking control of a complete mess of a side and enduring endless injuries, Pochettino has done a pretty good job. Not necessarily a great job, but a good one. But despite the fact he is gradually sweeping up the mess they themselves caused, Chelsea’s owners may decide to sack him anyway.

Now, McKenna may well be a good replacement. He may even be better. He has a very short CV – Ipswich are the only side he has managed at the senior level – but he has become the first manager to achieve back-to-back promotions to the Premier League in 12 years and has got a distinctly unstarry side playing some exceptional football. His qualifications to succeed Pochettino seem solid.

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But why change what is – at this stage – a winning formula? Why fix something that’s only just been repaired? Why roll the dice yet again when you just beat the house? Maybe McKenna comes up double sixes, but then maybe his tenure at Ipswich was a matter of the perfect coach for a specific club, or a little bit of bottled lightning that he might not be able to repeat with an ego-laden Premier League dressing room where players are bought and sold in accordance with someone else’s whims.

Chelsea have a good thing going with Pochettino. The correct move is to leave him alone and perhaps even let him have a bit more control over transfers so he can mould his squad to his requirements, rather than having to adapt to incomings and outgoings he didn’t ask for. They are, after a truly diabolical year, moving back in the right direction, and not even all that slowly.

Or, if you’re a billionaire American hedge fund type, perhaps you can just throw a bit more money around for the thrill and find yourself a nice new toy to play with. You can convince yourself that finishing sixth was insufficient despite the fact that the club was far from being the sixth-best team in the country last May. Or that it’s the manager’s fault you didn’t just win the league, rather than your own transfer policy. And then get ready to do it all again in a year’s time.

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