Mauricio Pochettino final Chelsea sack date clear with imminent Todd Boehly deadline

Chelsea head coach Mauricio Pochettino
Mauricio Pochettino's Chelsea future is uncertain amid pressure on the head coach -Credit:Robin Jones - AFC Bournemouth/AFC Bournemouth via Getty Images

On paper the decision is simple. Mauricio Pochettino has navigated a tough first season in charge of Chelsea to bring European football, two trips to Wembley, and a more exciting brand of football to Stamford Bridge. Expectations have largely been met, even if not in the way that many imagined.

In reality, nothing is simple at Chelsea though. Not even a strong end to the campaign can create certainty heading into another crucial summer.

It is best expressed via the ongoing difference between what most see as fair and what the owners - headed by Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital's Behdad Eghbali - expect, being so apparent. If this wasn't the case then there would surely have been more public backing of the head coach.

Two weeks before the end of the season Boehly spoke in America, touching on Chelsea's recent progress. At the time that was a brief 'two-and-a-half-game' spell that had seen them overturn a 2-0 deficit away at Aston Villa followed by victories against Tottenham and West Ham.

Boehly refrained from outright praising Pochettino, though he did describe the football as being beautiful. There was part of his business-like statement that made it sound like this had all been the plan, that after eight months of pain, it would all click.

For Pochettino it will sting slightly. He has been the man to front up when times had been tough - only fair, too, there were justifiable questions over his management of the squad for prolonged periods of the season - but was not being credited when the form came around. The feeling, it seems, being there was a sense that it has taken Chelsea too long to get to this stage.

Pochettino was, for example, not mentioned in the owner's programme message to fans ahead of Bournemouth. There were nods to work across the board in the women's team and academy, as well as hints of praise for the recent form, but nothing as much as outright support.

READ MORE: Chelsea owners make huge FFP promise and drop Mauricio Pochettino sack decision hint in statement

READ MORE: Chelsea readied for imminent FFP boost as Premier League outcome revealed before transfer window

This seems to have grated with Pochettino as he continued to be questioned over his future multiple times a week in the media during the final few weeks of the season. The uncertainty over whether or not he will be at the club by the end of the month remains.

He has alluded to the possibility of walking away himself, owing to a club not entirely connected through its chain of command. Here is a group now with controlling owners that spend the majority of time in America but with a split in who holds the most power, overseeing a cohort of recruitment directors and sporting bodies that may all have differing opinions.

That there are often mixed messages, or at least not one totally consistent thread through it all, is no surprise. For Pochettino, it is a distraction.

He has had to manage a squad built mostly across two transfer windows that he had none and very little say in, respectively. He was handed the youngest group of players in the league, regardless of talent and promise, and asked to bring together a team capable of challenging for the top four.

Add in a near comical injury record throughout the season, and the level of mitigation for an unstable first year has been high. This is what Pochettino refers to as 'the circumstances' on a near-weekly basis. His explanations have been understandable too.

Chelsea have attempted to do something never before tried in football at this level. That it took six months (at the very minimum) to start to show fruits of gelling, is no surprise. Yet, in some quarters there is a sense of inevitability. The message from the owners has so far been that this was all just part of the plan, but without much acceptance of the impressive work from Pochettino make it work.

This is something the former Tottenham man has tried to highlight for much of the past few weeks as he comes from a position of strength. The distraction of upcoming meetings and summer plans is finally gone now.

Now there is nothing to be distracted from. Chelsea have three months until the new season. Between here and then are the European Championships, Copa America, summer transfer window, and a tour of USA. The sooner an outcome to the assessment of Pochettino's performance is made, the better.

He has admitted to starting plans with the club for pre-season, as well as giving excited responses when asked about moving forward with this group of players. Depending on which way you lean at any given moment, he has been talking his way out of a job or into the future.

It has given a slightly strange feeling on the final weeks of the season. Five wins in a row, finishing just three points behind early season title contenders Tottenham, and unbeaten at Stamford Bridge in nine games. In 2024 the form has been that of a top-four side, not a mid-table one.

Individual levels have improved across the board with Malo Gusto and Trevoh Chalobah excelling at the back, Marc Cucurella being granted a new lease of life in a new role (his flaws now effectively covered up by Pochettino's tactical shift), and Moises Caicedo partnering Conor Gallagher excellently in the absence of Enzo Fernandez.

Nicolas Jackson had a consistent final half of the campaign despite wayward finishing at times, Cole Palmer continued to look every piece the empowered young attacker that Pochettino oversees wherever he goes, and Noni Madueke made serious strides towards being a bigger help at both ends of the field.

These are not the circumstances in which a manager would normally expect their future to remain in the balance. The question now comes as to how and when Chelsea make their decision.

Keeping Pochettino in the dark will not go down with a man that has set his stall out already. "I don't know if that is going to happen or not," he said of the review on Sunday. "I don't have any idea about this. All I can tell you is on Friday night, Todd [Boehly] invited me for a dinner and it was a very nice dinner together. But I don't know about the rumours about the review.

"My staff tomorrow are flying for their holidays. I am going to stay in London for a few more days. I am always open. My phone is going to be on."

It leaves Chelsea with some big calls to make in a short space of time. Much like 12 months ago, when the club were in the pits of losing seven of their final 11 league games, winning just one, the need for control is there.

Chelsea must now seek to set to the agenda and the narrative of their own summer or else risk it being laid out for them. After two years of negativity and backlash, it is a chance to put the record straight and get people on board.

Pushing into June without the knowledge of Pochettino's future or, if he is to be dismissed, who the manager will be for 2024/25, would be chaotic even for Chelsea. Last year, the club played the situation pretty well.

Christopher Nkunku was announced shortly after the season had ended, Pochettino was likewise unveiled and a new dawn approached. The negative publicity ended after understandable post-mortems took place, and Chelsea's summer was largely smooth sailing.

Mauricio Pochettino
The future of Mauricio Pochettino as Chelsea boss continues to be up for discussion -Credit:Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

The exact same cannot be replicated now, but there are decisions to be made and announcements to come that will define how Chelsea progress. The big question is just how aligned all parties can get.

Pochettino believes he has hit the ceiling with this group of players in his first year in charge, though not yet close to the full potential of the squad, while the owners appear to believe that this was merely the floor. This tempers both sets of expectations as they prepare to sit down and discuss what the landscape looks like.

Both sides are at opposite ends of the spectrum currently and there is a lot of ground to be made up in the middle. How they adjust and determine things in the coming days will be central to what Chelsea's summer looks like. Either way it must happen quickly or risk derailing more than just the May bank holiday.