Chelsea want to recruit set-piece specialists despite Mauricio Pochettino scepticism

Noni Madueke of Chelsea takes a corner kick
Chelsea's set-piece department will be club-wide - Getty Images/Darren Walsh

Chelsea are set to recruit specialist coaches to work in a new dedicated set-piece department, despite head coach Mauricio Pochettino dismissing the idea only a month ago.

Pochettino declared that “football belongs to the players, not to the specialists” and insisted his existing coaching staff was capable of working on set-pieces when asked about the subject at the start of February.

Chelsea’s set-piece department will be club-wide, rather than focussing solely on Pochettino’s first team, and is being created following a club-wide review that took place last summer.

The club decided on a number of changes to the medical department and other areas relating to performance, which included creating a set-piece department. Chelsea say Pochettino has been involved in the entire process, in spite of his apparent scepticism over the need for set-piece specialists.

Telegraph Sport understands that Chelsea have already sounded out candidates to work within the new department and there is a possibility that more than one set-piece specialist coach will be appointed.

How closely any new set-piece coaches would work with Pochettino remains to be seen, given he has always worked with his close-knit staff of Jesus Perez, son Sebastiano, Miguel d’Agostino and Toni Jimenez, the goalkeeping coach.

Chelsea tried to integrate Bruno Saltor, who arrived at the club with Graham Potter, into Pochettino’s staff but the 43-year-old, who managed one game last season, soon left the club.

Bruno Saltor
Bruno Saltor left soon after Mauricio Pochettino arrived - PA/John Walton

Arsenal recruited a set-piece specialist from Manchester City, while Nottingham Forest hired their first-ever set-piece coach in December and Aston Villa are also among the clubs that use one.

But Pochettino dismissed the idea ahead of Chelsea’s home defeat by Wolves, instead suggesting that he and his staff were looking at potentially signing a player who is particularly strong at taking set-pieces during the summer.

“We work a lot on set-pieces. After that, it is about the quality of the player. It is about the takers,” said Pochettino. “We don’t have a specialist. Maybe Chilly is good in the delivery but after that, we don’t have a specialist. If you want to be good at set-pieces, we work a lot. But then you need good takers.

“When you have good takers, and of course, Wolves have good takers, and like Manchester City have or other clubs. It is not down to the work. We work similarly. But the problem is to have good takers.

“We have specialists (coaches). We are a coaching staff in charge of everything. You can have a specialist and you can promote the specialist. Or you can have the specialist and not promote the specialist. It depends how you want to sell the idea of working on set-pieces. We have a specialist, we have a group of analysts for set-pieces, we have the coaching staff and we work a lot. And then it is about the quality. At the moment, we were talking about trying to find a good specialist (player) for next season.

“Look before at West Ham and after. What changed? After and before? It’s not the same. The taker is (James) Ward-Prowse. Or he is Pochettino, no? Prowsey is a much better taker than me. For sure, you can work, like West Ham were working. But now, you add a player like him, you increase the percentage. That is football. Football belongs to the players. Not to the specialists.”