Chelsea's Mauricio Pochettino sack decision aided with 'massive step' after huge transfer gamble

Chelsea head coach Mauricio Pochettino
Mauricio Pochettino's Chelsea side are in a good moment -Credit:Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC


With only 72 hours to prepare for the game – and the current injury situation – Chelsea would have been forgiven for starting a bit slowly against West Ham United. Fatigue, a factor that has affected Blues players on multiple occasions this season, was nowhere to be seen.

Football players are able to make the game require very little effort sometimes and that is what Chelsea did on Sunday. The Blues had complete control of the match with the Hammers from the first to last whistle at Stamford Bridge.

It wasn't just having control and possession for the sake of it either. Too many times in Mauricio Pochettino's debut season with the club we have seen this. Backwards and sideways passes too often, leading to nothing and achieving very little.

That, however, was not the case at all against West Ham. Forward passes, runs in behind, moving off the ball to create space for others. They are all very simple things but not things that Chelsea have done regularly this season.

In back-to-back games, though, in three days – which is crucial context as well – Chelsea have done this. In those two matches, they have controlled the tempo, the ball and chose when to pounce on the opposition. Progress.

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Chelsea have now climbed up to seventh-place in the Premier League table. Progress. Three games to go and they are all huge for the Blues who are desperate to return to European football next term for the financial gain if nothing else.

And for Pochettino, it perhaps means even more. The club will review the Argentine's position as head coach at the end of the season before deciding what to do next. Finishing in a European place is believed to be massively important in any future decision.

"It is a process that takes time," Pochettino said at full-time. "You ever know if it will be one month, six months or a year. But they are starting to live like a group of players with links. I am so pleased with that, helping them to grow and be mature. It is only the first step, but a massive step."

Chelsea's recent form, which included two straight victories against Tottenham and West Ham – both without conceding a goal – and a brilliant second-half display at Aston Villa, has all coincided with a change in system. Marc Cucurella, when Chelsea have possession, now tucks into midfield to help Moises Caicedo.

Cucurella has been impressive in doing so with this perhaps the best three-game spell the £60million signing, who has been criticised heavily since moving to Stamford Bridge almost two years ago, has had in a Blues shirt. When the Spaniard tucks into midfield, it gives Caicedo more support in a defensive sense and allows the in-form Conor Gallagher to roam forward with his attacking ability.

For Cole Palmer's strike against the Hammers, the opening goal of the 5-0 rout, Cucurella plays an indirect, but equally crucial role. Edson Alvarez of West Ham is distracted by Cucurella's presence in the midfield role and while the Mexican should be on Palmer, tight to give the Chelsea top goal scorer no space, he is looking over his shoulder to see if Cucurella makes a run.

There are subtle little things when you watch Chelsea now that look to be influenced by the left-back's new role. Having more control in matches is one of them. Pochettino seems to have struck gold.

These last three matches, where Chelsea travel to Nottingham Forest before a trip to Brighton and then a home clash with Bournemouth to conclude the season, are crucial for Pochettino. Winning all three of them would be perfect, of course, and with the way the Blues are playing right now, that looks a succinct possibility. Progress.

There is a real feel-good factor at Chelsea all of the sudden. That is not to say the anti-Pochettino brigade have disappeared but nobody can deny this Blues side are not entertaining to watch.

It seems frankly ridiculous to say just over eight months after Chelsea were beaten 1-0 at home to Nottingham Forest, a match the Blues dominated but simply could not score, that goals are leaking out of this team. But they are.

Pochettino has changed something. He has by no means done a perfect job at Stamford Bridge but there has been progress.