Behdad Eghbali has risked placing more scrutiny on Chelsea’s owners by making regular post-match visits to the team dressing-room and manager’s office at Stamford Bridge this season.
Chelsea sources insist Eghbali did not address the players after Sunday’s 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa and has not delivered pep talks during any of his visits, but his presence in the area normally reserved for the head coach, his staff and the players could still prompt debate.
Eghbali’s co-controlling owner Todd Boehly was widely criticised for entering the dressing-room after last season’s defeat to Brighton and labelling the team “embarrassing” in an address to the players.
The backlash faced by Boehly has not put off Eghbali, who was spotted leaving the dressing-room area at Stamford Bridge after Chelsea’s defeat to Villa and it is understood he has made the same trip after every game he has attended this season.
Boehly is also said to have visited the Chelsea dressing-room area this season, but has not repeated his post-Brighton pep talk with the two owners sharing the same approach.
Rather than expressing his thoughts to the team during his post-game visits to either the home dressing-room or the manager’s office, Eghbali is said to have instead shaken hands with players and coaching staff, and wished individuals well.
Regardless of his motives, Eghbali’s post-match presence in the dressing-room area risks inviting further debate over the involvement of the owners, who head coach Mauricio Pochettino admitted were disappointed by his team’s start to the season.
Eghbali spent the final week of the summer transfer window camped at Chelsea’s Cobham training ground to help co-sporting directors Paul Winstanley and Laurence Stewart, and is understood to have bought a house in London to stay in during his regular visits from the United States.
Flanked by Winstanley and Stewart, and on occasion Boehly, Eghbali has visited the dressing-room area or Pochettino’s office, which is next door, after every game he has attended this season - including the Premier League victory over Luton Town and the draw with Liverpool on the opening weekend.
Sources point out that Eghbali has been consistent in his approach - win, lose or draw - and that his visits will not have come as a surprise to Pochettino, his staff or the Chelsea players. The practice of owners entering the dressing-room area is common in American sports, but has been traditionally frowned upon in England.
On his appointment as Chelsea head coach, Pochettino stressed that Eghbali and Boehly needed to make him aware if they were going to visit the dressing-room or training ground, and it is understood the owners have discussed the subject directly with him.
Eghbali and Boehly believe their front-facing approach is a consistent theme of their ownership and has also incorporated at least one of the pair attending every Premier League meeting in person since buying Chelsea.
Furthermore, Chelsea sources stress the co-controlling owners do not want to only be seen at cup finals or in moments of success and will not change their approach just because some critics may question it.
“Of course, for me, more than welcome if the owner comes to the dressing room, to the training ground,” said Pochettino in July. “But, like I said, always they need to communicate it to myself, I need to know and to prepare, you know, the people because here it’s really special this type of thing in England.
“For me, I am more than happy if they [the owners] are close to us, but the coach, the head coach or the manager is who decides the thing, how it’s going to work in the dressing room, on the pitch, on the training ground. Also with the sporting director, altogether, to create the line altogether.”
Pochettino retains the full support of Eghbali and Boehly, with the first-team staff and the Chelsea owners confident results will soon start to reflect the data they are carefully studying during what has been a run that has included just one victory in the opening six Premier League games.
Having been hit by an early season injury crisis, Chelsea are under-performing their expected goals rate and lie fifth in the Premier League table for expected points, which is the biggest disparity in the top flight.
Telegraph Sport revealed on Monday that Bruno Saltor has secretly left the club less than four months after the club announced he would work within Pochettino’s coaching staff.