Mauricio Pochettino powerless to influence Conor Gallagher’s future

<span>Mauricio Pochettino congratulates <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Conor Gallagher;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Conor Gallagher</a> after the midfielder’s match-winning goal in the FA Cup victory over Leeds.</span><span>Photograph: Andrew Couldridge/Action Images/Reuters</span>

Mauricio Pochettino refused to comment on whether managers should have more power at Chelsea amid growing questions over Conor Gallagher’s future at the club.

Pochettino said that “I am the coach that needs to be in my place” when asked whether he would try to persuade Gallagher, whose contract expires next year, to stay. The Argentinian, who wants to keep the midfielder, said it was down to the player and Chelsea’s owners, who have handed responsibility for recruitment to the co-sporting directors, Laurence Stewart and Paul Winstanley.

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When the subject was raised again, it was pointed out to Pochettino that the Premier League’s top four – Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal and Aston Villa – give control to their managers. But when Chelsea’s head coach was asked whether that model was better he replied with: “No comment.”

Pochettino again offered a “no comment” when asked whether he would like more power. Asked why he was so tight-lipped, he said: “Because there is nothing to win for me. What am I going to say? I am the head coach. My job is to coach the team and to pick the decisions for tomorrow, for the starting XI and squad, and try to improve the players and try to win games. That is my job.”

Chelsea’s talks with Gallagher over a new deal are at an impasse and Pochettino was asked whether he was telling his bosses to keep the England international, who is a target for Tottenham.

“We have a very good relationship with the owners and sporting directors,” he said. “My office always is open and we have a very good relationship and dialogue. We are open to help in the way they think or believe we can help.”

Chelsea’s drive to improve their sporting infrastructure will lead them to establish a department devoted to working on set pieces, despite Pochettino previously expressing scepticism about the idea. It is expected they will recruit one or two specialist coaches to work within the setup.

Pochettino said last month that “football belongs to the players, not the specialists” and said his close-knit backroom staff were capable of working on set pieces. Chelsea, who visit Brentford on Saturday, say the former Spurs manager is now on board with the idea.

Chelsea are aiming to become as proficient as Brentford at set pieces. Arsenal, Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa have set-piece coaches.

Pochettino said that Reece James, who is back in light training after hamstring surgery, should not push himself too hard in an attempt to make England’s squad for Euro 2024. Chelsea’s captain has been out since December.

“Our target is for him to be fit, feeling happy and well,” he said. Then we will see if there is a possibility of going to the Euros or not, or whether he is ready for the next season or he can play before we finish the season here.

“The most important thing for Reece is to build his confidence and physical condition. Now is not to set the target of: ‘I’m going to play the last five games.’ Or the Euros. The target is for him to feel really strong and start to play when he can deal again with the competition.”