Pochettino’s response speaks volumes as Chelsea face similar Palace problem

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Written By Maya Cantina

In previewing Chelsea’s clash with Crystal Palace, Mauricio Pochettino offered his seat to a journalist to take his place.

Given the record of recent Blues bosses, Pochettino might benefit to be more protective of his position however. The 51-year-old coach agreed a two-year deal with Chelsea in the summer but the relationship is set to be assessed by both parties come the end of the season.

Recent weeks have seen Chelsea threaten to turn a corner on multiple occasions. A 6-1 victory over Middlesbrough ensured some Stamford Bridge enthusiasm and with it an opportunity to win the Carabao Cup, while impressive outings against Aston Villa showed hints of progression for supporters to hold onto.

However, the Blues remain in a position where momentum rapidly dissipates. A first leg defeat against Boro reinforced each of Pochettino’s struggles, while consecutive losses to Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers ensured malaise returned and speculation over the former Spurs boss’ future arrive.

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Defeat to Wolves ended an 11-match unbeaten run at home and saw Pochettino’s position appear to be questioned by Thiago Silva’s wife, Belle. She called for change and found her husband out of the Blues starting XI as the west London side progressed past Aston Villa in impressive manner to continue in the FA Cup.

Pochettino suggested the move was simply in the hope of retaining balance to his side and not a move to make a point, or that Silva had now aged out of the side.

He said: “That is your opinion. That is not a question. If you believe that, why are you asking me?

Head Coach Mauricio Pochettino and Thiago Silva of Chelsea during a training session
Head Coach Mauricio Pochettino and Thiago Silva of Chelsea during a training session
Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC)

“Why you are not sitting here? You can take my place? You can take the decision and you can pick the starting 11. No? You want to come here?

“I always take my decision trying to provide good balance to the team. I don’t see the passport or the age of the player. Always it is about the quality, how we can get the best balance of the team.

“But from the beginning we were playing with him, without him, with Levi (Colwill), with Benoit when he was available. Benoit was not available for a long time.

“He was injured and now we need to assess him. (Trevoh) Chalobah was injured. (Wesley) Fofana was injured. Reece James was injured. Ben Chilwell, injured. Always we try to get the best balance for the formation and to pick the players that can perform and win games.”

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Pochettino has endured no shortage of obstacles during his time in charge. A complete squad overhaul occurred throughout his opening weeks to produce the youngest side in the division, while the Blues have been overwhelmed by injury over the course of the season.

Seven players remain out despite Levi Colwill and Trevoh Chalobah making their return, and the likes of Christopher Nkunku and Ben Chilwell have been managed carefully following long term injuries. Pochettino too remains without significant players in Reece James, while Benoit Badiashile has been ruled out after a decent showing alongside Axel Disasi.

However, despite the caveats, Pochettino has not always helped his case. Utilising players in unfamiliar roles has led to frustration, and comparing the response to his side’s 4-1 defeat to Liverpool, to the Reds’ 3-1 loss to Arsenal caused eyebrows to be raised with Chelsea 23 points behind Jurgen Klopp’s men.

Ultimately, the Premier League table is reference point by which Pochettino and Chelsea will be judged. Sitting in 11th position tells a more accurate story than most statistics.

Roy Hodgson
Roy Hodgson’s time at Crystal Palace looks to be coming to an end
Getty Images)

Pochettino meets Roy Hodgson on Monday evening, another manager in a precarious position. The veteran boss returned almost 12 months ago to secure a mid-table finish for the Eagles but they now lie at risk of being drawn into a relegation battle.

Palace have only scored more goals than Sheffield United and Burnley this term, and the two players responsible for half of their 26 strikes, Eberechi Eze and Michael Olise, are both out injured in addition to defender Marc Guehi.

Hodgson’s position has come under scrutiny with his team having earned three points just twice in 14 matches. That combined with criticism for his use of Olise, who lasted less than 10 minutes on his return before suffering a recurrence of his hamstring injury, has ensured a difficult time.

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Alongside their goalscoring woes, Palace have not kept a clean sheet in 12 matches and Hodgson has acknowledged that it is his most difficult period in charge given the feeling of supporters. However, they could equal their record of three home Premier League wins in a row.

Chelsea will see the clash as an opportunity to cement some strong form having won 12 consecutive league matches against the south London side. The west London side have shown the capability of ending such runs with defeat to Wolves at Stamford Bridge, being their first since 1979.

Both sides perhaps teeter on the verge of hope being restored or frustrations returning to the surface in a visceral manner once again.

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