Mauricio Pochettino needs trophies to silence doubters at Chelsea

Mauricio Pochettino, manager of Chelsea, looks on prior to the Premier League match between Manchester City and Chelsea at Etihad Stadium on February 17, 2024
Pochettino is yet to win a trophy in England - Getty Images/Chelsea Football Club

Mauricio Pochettino need only glance over to the opposition dugout at Wembley on Sunday should he need to remind himself how important trophies are — even if he already has the respect of his contemporaries.

Jurgen Klopp will be trying to win his fifth major trophy as Liverpool manager in the Carabao Cup final against Pochettino’s Chelsea, having taken almost four years to get his hands on his first piece of silverware with the Reds.

Pochettino insists that “football people” recognise his work and respect him, but also corrected himself to acknowledge “some fans” will continue to judge him against the fact he is still looking to win his first piece of silverware in England.

“I think it won’t increase my popularity [to win a trophy in England], in the way that the fans are going to see us,” said Pochettino, the Chelsea head coach. “Or maybe the fans, yes. Some fans. Part of the fans.

“But I think football people are like me. Klopp was good before he arrived at Liverpool, was good after three or four years that he didn’t win. And [is good] now that he won the Champions League and the Premier League.”

Pochettino, as he is keen to point out, won trophies when he was in charge of Paris St-Germain and underlined his point that “football is about players” when asked if he had any lucky charms from his time in France that he would be taking to Wembley.

Paris St-Germain's Kylian Mbappe and coach Mauricio Pochettino during the match
Pochettino won Ligue 1 and the French Cup while in charge of PSG - Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes

“In Paris? Yes, Mbappe,” said Pochettino, to a roar of laughter. “Finals, football belongs to the players. Players are the most important part of the game. We [the coaches] are not so important.

“I don’t judge the coaches or the staff about winning titles. There are too many factors that have an influence. If you have good players, you should be close to winning and maybe everyone can say you are the best coach in the world. But we know very well it is not like this.

“It’s to be in the right moment, in the right club that trusts in you, that gives you the tools and the possibility to win. Some fans will say, ‘oh he’s good because he wins’ or ‘he’s not good because he doesn’t win’. For me, it’s not the way to judge the coaching staff.”

Despite playing it cool in public, some of Pochettino’s biggest advocates believe he will want a first trophy in English football — the Carabao Cup — more than anyone else.

Whether or not lifting the trophy would secure his Chelsea future for at least another season remains to be seen. European qualification has always been the minimum aim of his first campaign in charge and victory over Liverpool would guarantee a place in the Europa Conference League.

There is recognition inside the club that, following the shambles of last season, any sort of silverware and European qualification would represent an improvement and progress.

Pochettino is yet to hear his name sung by Chelsea fans, which is no great surprise given the team’s inconsistent form and the fact they are currently 10th in the Premier League. There may be a minority who will never get over his Spurs past, but winning on Sunday would undoubtedly endear him more to the majority.

A fan of Chelsea reacts during the Emirates FA Cup fourth round match between Chelsea and Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge on January 26, 2024 in London
Chelsea's inconsistency this season has been a source of huge frustration for the fans - Getty Images/Ryan Pierse

On the subject of how crucial winning the Carabao Cup would be to him and the Chelsea project, Pochettino said: “Maybe you need other people here sitting in my place. For me, I am focused on trying to win but I cannot answer your question because it is not in my hands.

“Who deserves the credit? I don’t know. But it’s important for the club and for this young team to be there. What we are doing is helping the team in different areas in different circumstances to improve as players and as a team. Do we deserve credit or not? It’s not in our hands. It depends on what the people above us think.”

Pochettino once claimed that winning the Carabao Cup would “not change the life” of Tottenham and suggested it was not a “real” trophy, while later arguing that trophies “only build your ego”.

He has since admitted he is “desperate” to win a trophy, any trophy, with Chelsea, which is perhaps an acknowledgement that silverware is the only currency that counts among the club’s fans, regardless of the change of ownership and constant talk of projects, philosophies and patience.

But Pochettino remains adamant that he does not have a point to prove and that winning the Carabao Cup would not be a way of answering back to his or Chelsea’s critics.

“No, then it’s like you don’t accept the criticism or different opinions,” said Pochettino. “We need to accept the process and that expectations are different maybe to another club. The important thing is to feel good within yourself. We are not playing on Sunday to show people that they are wrong for criticising us, the club or the way we play.

“We want to win because of us. To be happy and because we want to win. We are not playing because of our egos. It’s more because it’s going to be good for the club and for the team.”