Mauricio Pochettino has been putting on extra shooting practice for his misfiring Chelsea players and hopes Mykhailo Mudryk will be boosted by finally breaking his losing run in the crossbar challenge against the club’s head coach.
A group of Chelsea players stayed behind after training on Tuesday, preparing for Wednesday night’s Carabao Cup tie against Brighton, to practise their shooting. Mudryk, the £88 million signing who is yet to score a goal for the club, was last to go in.
With the crossbar challenge, Pochettino has taken the ‘competitive dad’ approach to trying to boost Mudryk’s confidence. On Tuesday the Ukraine international managed to avoid yet another defeat at the hands of the head coach – even if the winger is still looking for his first victory.
Asked how he has been trying to boost the confidence of his players in front of goal, former defender Pochettino said: “One example: today, with Mudryk, I like to play hitting the crossbar from outside the box.
“He said to me today, ‘No, I’m not going to play any more with you because always you win’. I said, ‘Yes, because I have the belief. The balance in between belief and quality I know very well because I am 51 years old and you are still young. You need to still know yourself.
“‘Today was the first time that we draw. Now, you start to believe in yourself, you start to believe in your quality because, if not, it is not a good balance in between belief and quality. It is difficult. That is important’.
“That is one aspect that you work on the psychology of the player and can make the difference and provide the players the confidence afterwards to touch the ball and score rather than to go outside and go inside. It’s a small example.”
Chelsea have failed to score in each of their past three games and Pochettino admitted he was having to be careful to strike a balance between addressing the problem and exacerbating the issue.
“The only thing we are missing as I explain, maybe I am annoying with that, but we are only missing the last touch because we create and are at the top in everything,” Pochettino said. “The only problem is the last touch.
“Maybe it is about practising more. We will practise. Maybe it is about staying more relaxed, yes. Maybe it is about many things that can affect it.
“Also, it is Chelsea and there’s a pressure to win. When you don’t win or score in one game, it is doubly hard after. We are trying to be relaxed. I think when we start to score then for sure we will start to win games.”
‘We are going to see if Jackson is clever enough’
Against Brighton, Nicolas Jackson is likely to be given another chance to add to his solitary goal for Chelsea, after earning a fifth yellow card that means he is suspended for the Premier League trip to Fulham.
Pochettino had warned Jackson against picking up another silly booking and said the striker had been punished for earning a ban, but has not paid a financial penalty.
Asked if Jackson had been fined, Pochettino replied: “Not really, not in the way you maybe think. It’s not money.”
Laughing, he added: “It’s private. I don’t like to talk about money with players. But in a different way [he is punished], of course. It is about learning. He needs to learn not only in this, but in other areas. We are going to see if he is clever enough to adapt and accept advice, and also to learn from mistakes.”
Pochettino confirmed Telegraph Sport’s reports that Chelsea co-controlling owner Behdad Eghbali had visited the dressing-room area or manager’s office after every game he has attended this season, and that first-team coach Bruno Saltor had left the club.
“I like it when the owners come,” Pochettino said. “I think it’s good that the owner came to the dressing room [after the game against Aston Villa], it’s the way in which they approach the players is most important.
“If they are in a good way and a correct way, they are very welcome. They also did it with Liverpool, Luton and Nottingham Forest. They came with Paul Winstanley and Laurence Stewart, Behdad and sometimes Todd [Boehly] also, and we talk about the game.”
Boehly last season received widespread criticism for addressing the team and labelling them “embarrassing” after a defeat by Brighton, and Pochettino said: “It’s not a job of the owner to come to the dressing room and give a speech after the game. They know very well how they have to behave.”