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  • By Matthew Ferris at Cobham training ground

Poch: ‘We can’t compare with the past - you can’t compare Jackson with Drogba. Drogba was one of the best strikers in the world’

By Matthew Ferris at Cobham

Mauricio Pochettino has called the expectations the football world has of Chelsea “so annoying” after criticism has been directed at the club since losing to a second-string Liverpool side in the League Cup final on Sunday.

After the manner of the defeat to Liverpool, the narrative of ‘Klopp’s kids’ (with a higher average age than Chelsea’s team), Liverpool’s injuries, Chelsea’s lack of ambition in extra time, there was always going to be pressure on Pochettino.

The Argentine, though, was defiant in his assessment of the perception those on the outside have of the current state of the club.

In his press conference ahead of Chelsea’s FA Cup Fifth Round tie against Leeds, he said: “The problem is so annoying, after eight months people always talk about one billion [spent], I don’t know but I feel that it’s a little bit unfair, it’s my view from here.”

“The new owners came in with the right intention, they want to build something that is different from the past and that is what we need to understand.

“We are part of this structure, this project, of course with ups and downs but it’s only the beginning - that is why we cannot compare with the past.”

Pochettino’s reference to past attitudes at the club perhaps shows how tough of a job any manager at Chelsea faces; the seat is currently a poisoned chalice.

Success has been taken for granted and ultimately expected at Chelsea for over 20 years now, and although the Roman era in which this mindset was born no longer exists, the culture and expectation still remains.

Under Abramovich, a short run of poor results ended with a change of manager, and this method, although brutal, worked.

The new ownership regime have chosen to take a different route, with the idea of the ‘project’ being at the forefront.

But this ‘project’ method has already seen the club appoint four managers in a short space of time – moving away from the old methods clearly isn’t as easy as it seems.

In Pochettino they believe they have found their man to lead this young inexperienced group of expensive talent to the top of English football, but after a rocky eight months, they are going to have to show a whole new level of stubbornness to withstand the pre-conceived notions in the media of how Chelsea treat their managers.

Regarding the past, Pochettino made an example of the difference in player quality, and said: “Jackson cannot compare with Drogba, Drogba was one of the best strikers in the world. It’s difficult to find another Drogba.”

“There’s too many things that happen in order to build a team after to go and compete with the best teams in the world.”

He also spoke how if Liverpool or Manchester city lose, “no one [will] say anything negative…if you lose nothing happens, but Chelsea is completely different because of the pressure [of the past]”.

Despite the pressure from the footballing world after Sunday, Pochettino has had positive talks with the owners.

“I feel the support [from the owners] …Todd [Boehly] sent a very nice text, and then I met Behdad [Eghbali] after two hours outside in London.

“It was really good, we were happy with the performance after 90 minutes, but we could not keep this energy up in extra time to win the game.”

Chelsea’s Fifth Round clash with Leeds tomorrow is a must-win for Pochettino and the club’s hierarchy; it is the last chance to salvage any silverware this season, with a victory taking The Blues to within one win of another Wembley trip.

A defeat would test how serious the owners really are in giving Pochettino the amount of time that he feels is necessary to transform this team to the level of clubs like Liverpool and Manchester City.

Pochettino said that it is the “reality” that the two best sides in England gave their managers time to build their teams, and this is clearly something the Chelsea owners want to replicate in the long-term.

It seems that between now and the end of the season, there will be moments where the hierarchy are forced to decide whether to stick or twist with the manager. Any decision is going to bring criticism.

If they choose to sack him, the ‘project’ narrative will lose its credibility with many and trust in the ownership could falter, but if they choose to keep Pochettino and results get worse, the criticism will be that they are accepting mediocrity and failing to acknowledge their mistakes. A lose-lose situation.

The ownership have a lot to answer for; the signings made have been underwhelming and at times erratic, and the situation that they find themselves in now is largely down to their own mistakes.

If Boehly and Co want to escape from the shadow of the old regime, they are eventually going to have to stick with someone in charge for the foreseeable future, otherwise they will risk keeping an old culture in place, but this time without any of the success that used to inevitably come attached to it.


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