Mauricio Pochettino is under pressure at Chelsea and the atmosphere around the club must improve soon or the owners may be left with no choice but to sack him.
The Blues are languishing in mid-table obscurity in the Premier League and a difficult run of fixtures means Pochettino faces an uphill battle to save his job and Chelsea’s season.
Fans are disgruntled and things may have to change soon amid reports of an unhappy squad.
But, what can Pochettino change to save his job at Chelsea?
Move to a back three
Pochettino is reportedly considering a formation change, according to The Evening Standard, and he must act on this soon.
A back three suited Chelsea under both Antonio Conte and Thomas Tuchel and it suits their current squad too.
Pochettino has bizarrely deployed Enzo in a more advanced role next to Conor Gallagher this season and this has limited the Argentine’s impact in possession and left Caicedo exposed to quick counter-attacks.
Using a double pivot would alleviate both problems.
In addition, Ben Chilwell and Malo Gusto are perfect wing-backs, while Levi Colwill and Axel Disasi’s experience at full-back makes them perfect candidates for the wide centre-back berths either side of Thiago Silva.
Christopher Nkunku and Cole Palmer are ideally-suited to playing as inside forwards, similar to Mason Mount and Kai Havertz under Tuchel, while Nicolas Jackson could benefit from being more closely surrounded by fellow attackers.
All in all, a back three suits Chelsea’s squad and their starting XI would benefit massively from a new system.
Prioritise getting Enzo Fernandez on the ball
As mentioned, Fernandez has been a shadow of his former self this season.
The Argentine midfielder has played far too high up the pitch and this has caused issues both in and out of possession.
Most importantly, Caicedo is left on his own in build-up as a result and Chelsea have struggled to play through teams.
Dropping Fernandez into a more reserved role would allow him to dictate play and begin showing his true quality. The ex-Benfica man was fantastic during Graham Potter’s time at Stamford Bridge and Pochettino must copy Potter’s blueprint of playing him deeper in order to maximise his value.
Fernandez has been limited so far this season, but a Toni Kroos-esque role suits him best and Pochettino must prioritise getting the Argentine on the ball as much as possible.
Rotate the squad, reward good performances and promote academy players
During Frank Lampard’s first spell, Chelsea fans were happy with a top four finish, but they were arguably more pleased by the identity of the squad.
The starting XI was full of academy stars and a sense of togetherness was evident.
That is no longer the case at Stamford Bridge and Pochettino must fix this to get back in favour with the supporters.
Tyrique George has been in sublime form for Chelsea’s youth sides this season and amid Mudryk and Sterling’s struggles, promoting the youngster could be a great idea.
Sure, he may not be ready for regular first-team action, but Kobbie Mainoo has shown that an academy star with no senior football experience can have an impact in the Premier League.
Furthermore, Pochettino must be more ruthless with his team selection. When recently asked about Mudryk’s lack of starts in 2024, the Chelsea manager replied: “It’s about the form – if you keep your form and you are the best during every training session, [you will play].
“It’s about meritocracy. He has amazing quality and potential, but it’s a team game, it’s not tennis.”
Pochettino’s comments make sense given Mudryk’s inconsistent form this season, but his team selections suggest training displays are more important than performing on a matchday.
Carney Chukwuemeka has only just returned from injury, but his cameos against Middlesbrough and Liverpool were both excellent, yet his reward was a place back on the bench against Wolves.
Conor Gallagher started instead and he was unable to impact the game.
One moment during the Wolves game caught the eye in particular with regards to Gallagher. In the second-half, with Chelsea chasing the game, the England international turned back into trouble rather than play a simple five-yard pass to Fernandez, who was in acres of space.
That action caused Fernandez, Cole Palmer and Nicolas Jackson to raise their hands in frustration, and while Joao Gomes’ slip ensured Gallagher was able to find Malo Gusto, his team-mates’ reaction was telling.
It was very reminiscent of a viral clip from last season when Gallagher opted against playing a forward pass at Stamford Bridge, causing Tuchel to go ballistic on the touchline.
The ex-Crystal Palace loanee is a great player with many important attributes, but Chukwuemeka is in better form and was more deserving of a starting berth against Wolves.
Pochettino has been held back by injury issues this season, but he must be ruthless with his team selections if he is to remain at Chelsea. Poor performances should result in a trip to the substitutes bench, while eye-catching form should be rewarded.
Chelsea are in turmoil right now and while Pochettino is far from the only issue at the club, he may be the one who pays the price for their poor form. But, if he is to save his job, then he must be willing to make significant changes.