‘We are in a good way’: Pochettino spies seeds of success in Chelsea team

<span><a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Chelsea;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Chelsea</a> players in training before the Carabao Cup final.</span><span>Photograph: Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC/Getty Images</span>

Mauricio Pochettino believes his Chelsea team are ready to blossom and could accelerate their growth by beating Liverpool in Sunday’s Carabao Cup final. The manager has endured some difficult days since his arrival at the club last summer as he has tried to bed in a host of new players. Creating the right environment takes time, he said, and must happen in a fairly organic way.

But Pochettino has started to see the green shoots, especially in last Saturday’s 1-1 Premier League draw at Manchester City, which followed the away wins over Aston Villa (in the FA Cup) and Crystal Palace. Prior to that, Chelsea had lost heavily at Liverpool and to Wolves at home. Pochettino was delighted with the finer details against City, such as the defender Axel Disasi celebrating a headed clearance as if he had scored a goal.

Related: Pochettino warns Carabao Cup final officials over Klopp’s Liverpool exit bias

“Things are changing,” Pochettino said. “Did you see at the beginning of the season this type of behaviour from the players – to celebrate a block, to celebrate all together, to encourage each other? That is the process of all new teams – to build this competitive spirit. What Disasi did is a good sign. That is when as a coaching staff you start to feel: ‘We are in a good way.’

“When you plant a seed you don’t see, at the start, when it begins to grow. You need time. You need many things. In all of these types of projects … the first year or year and a half or two years, it is always difficult to see what is growing from the outside. Planting is about first growing the roots. Then things start to appear.”

Pochettino, who is seeking his first silverware in England, made it clear that winning was the only thing that mattered in the final against Liverpool. He also remembered how his first trophy as a player – the Apertura with Newell’s Old Boys as an 18-year-old in 1990 – was transformative.

“It changed me and changed my career, it changes how people perceive you and your belief,” he said. “We are going to build the players’ careers and our careers by winning trophies. It’s nice to play football with your friends. But you come here and put your Chelsea shirt on and it’s about competing.

“Since the start of the season, we have been talking about the mentality of this football club and needing a team to match it. Winning titles will be a good way to arrive at this capacity of competing well. A final is about winning and we need to win. Being second is the worst thing in the world.”

Pochettino finds it strange that VAR technology will be used in the final, having not been available in the previous rounds of the competition, although he is broadly a fan of it. The subject stirred unhappy memories of his meeting with Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool in the 2019 Champions League final when he was in charge at Tottenham. The game was shaped by a penalty for Liverpool at the very start for handball against the Spurs midfielder Moussa Sissoko. Mohamed Salah scored and Liverpool went on to win 2-0. Pochettino continues to believe the VAR ought to have advised the award be overturned.

“Were we playing [that night] with VAR or without?” he said. “Because the ball on Sissoko after 30 seconds was here [signals to his armpit]. Today do you think they would give a penalty?”

Pochettino was otherwise supremely relaxed, projecting confidence. “I don’t feel the pressure,” he said. “I am not the type of person or coach … ahhh, the anxiety or like this. We trust in ourselves and the team. And then it’s football. If you want to compete your best, you need to feel good, be happy. I don’t change too much. I am the same. I didn’t change the colour of my hair.”