Mauricio Pochettino’s nightmare maiden season at Chelsea plunged to new depths on Tuesday night as Championship side Middlesbrough took a massive step towards the Carabao Cup final. Hayden Hackney’s first-half winner punished the wasteful visitors at the Riverside Stadium as Michael Carrick got one over on Poch.
Chelsea will have travelled to the northeast with a spring in their step, winning five of their last six games in all competitions, including a 4-0 triumph over Preston North End in the FA Cup last time out.
But the Carabao Cup represents their best shot at silverware this term. And a dismal 1-0 defeat at Middlesbrough leaves Pochettino’s hopes hanging by a thread.
Express Sport looks at three major concerns from the Blues’ latest low.
Financial flexing won’t help finishing
Chelsea’s heavy expenditure under Todd Boehly’s regime has been well documented, splurging over £1billion in less than two years.
It has made the Stamford Bridge outfit’s staggering decline all the more shocking, and it was the same old story on Tuesday night.
Sure, Christopher Nkunku and Nicolas Jackson are injured. But Cole Palmer started up front while natural striker Armando Broja watched from the bench. Palmer should have scored at least twice before the break.
Raheem Sterling and Noni Madueke, also big-money arrivals, were just as ineffective on the wings. Pochettino needs to get a tune out of these forwards.
Chelsea rolled up to Middlesbrough with two players who cost over £100m, Moises Caicedo and Enzo Fernandez, in the starting lineup. A third in Mykhaylo Mudryk featured off the bench (if you want to use Euros).
Yet, Carrick’s midfield showed more fight off the ball and decisive quality on it – a damning indicator of Pochettino’s struggles to maximise the talent at his disposal.
Fernandez nor Caicedo have truly impressed since walking through the door at Chelsea. Not at their valuations, anyway.
That is a real concern and a potential black mark over the judgement of the recruitment structure Boehly has in place in west London.