Sacking Pochettino halts Chelsea's latest attempt at progress


One step forward, two steps back. One step forward, two steps back. 


That rhythm has become painfully familiar to Chelsea fans since Todd Boehly and Co.’s £2.5bn takeover was ratified in 2022. Despite a vow to establish a consistent culture at the club following years of hire-and-fire-fun under Roman Abramovich, the Blues’ new owners are now on the lookout for their fifth different manager in just two years. 


That’s because Mauricio Pochettino left the club by mutual consent on Monday. The man who had, eventually, after a tough old slog, got Chelsea back into genuinely positive shape, is now gone. He joins Thomas Tuchel, Graham Potter and Frank Lampard on the list of men who failed to "fit" Boehly’s intended "values" and "environment." 


Chelsea finished the season in sixth place. At a glance it’s disappointing, but given the mess Pochettino inherited, the injuries he battled and the sizable late-season surge in form and results that had rivals genuinely worried ahead of 2024/25, it felt like they were actually onto something. 


The statistics always suggested the corner would be turned. The Blues’ underlying numbers have been extremely positive all season long, with different types of tables, such as Expected Goals Differential and Expected Points, consistently placing Poch’s men in the top four. Over 38 games, they averaged more possession per game (59%) than control-obsessed Arsenal and more shots per game (14.4) than free-scoring Aston Villa. 


The simple reason the real table never painted the same picture was that their finishing was appalling. Every game we watched them kneecap themselves, missing golden opportunities that ended up costing them points.  


Two of the biggest xG underperformers in the entire Premier League this season, Nicolas Jackson (-4.66) and Enzo Fernandez (-3.33), wear Chelsea shirts. Jackson massively improved as the campaign wore on, but at least initially was a major problem. Often the question was raised: "Where would Chelsea be without Cole Palmer?" who scored a whopping 22 goals. The answer was met with a shudder. 



But despite this incredibly self-destructive trait; despite serious injuries preventing captain and vice-captain Reece James and Ben Chilwell taking to the pitch; despite all the other ailments, that at times took away entire portions of the team at once; despite having to micro-manage the alarming decline of Thiago Silva in real time; and despite all the noise around Chelsea’s PSR position, amid them selling a hotel to themselves to stay within the lines, Pochettino oversaw improvement. Gradual at first - then, suddenly, stark. 


The two halves of the campaign paint very different pictures: Across the first 19 games, Chelsea won just seven games, earned just 25 points and scored a miserly 31 goals; but across the next 19, they won 11 games, earned 38 points and scored 46 goals. These are huge differences. 


Jackson’s final tally of 14 goals and five assists from 31 league starts looks, frankly, phenomenal considering his extreme inexperience at the top level. It’s propped up by a late surge - five goals and two assists in his last eight - as he really found his groove, banishing awkward memories of those September struggles when his yellow card tally dwarfed his goal tally. 


Pochettino was by no means perfect - his defensive set piece tactics have been widely criticised, while his use of Enzo Fernandez has furrowed more than a few brows - but the general upward curve Jackson, Moises Caicedo and many of the other players found themselves on in 2024 suggested things were falling into place. 


But that progress now seems to have been stumped. Again. It’s reported that Pochettino was as much a part of the decision to part ways as the club was, but that likely just means the club weren’t willing to compromise on his behalf. Was it that he asked for more of a say in transfers and was denied, or was it something more sinister, such as pleas not to sell Conor Gallagher this summer being rebuffed? 


We’ll find out soon enough - but for now, Todd Boehly & Co. are back to square one, looking for the sort of perfection in a manager that either doesn’t exist, or simply won’t go near the Chelsea job in 2024.

Sacking Pochettino halts Chelsea's latest attempt at progress