Why Mauricio Pochettino’s ‘family values’ make him Chelsea’s perfect next manager

·4-min read
Why Mauricio Pochettino’s ‘family values’ make him Chelsea’s perfect next manager

Harry Kane recently spoke about the loss of “values”, “culture” and “standards” at Tottenham since Mauricio Pochettino left the club.

“From a culture point of view, we’ve been too up and down over the last few years,” Kane told Sky Sports, adding: “We need to discuss some of the standards around the team and the training ground, which we need to get back to. We had those [standards] in place when Mauricio Pochettino was here.”

Kane’s comments are a reminder that Spurs did not simply lose a progressive coach in Pochettino, but perhaps the single biggest factor in creating a positive and professional atmosphere around the club.

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And it is this aspect of Pochettino’s work that should most appeal to Chelsea and suggests the Argentine will be a great fit for Spurs’s rivals now he has finally been named as Graham Potter’s successor.

A change in ownership, three different coaches in eight months and 17 new signings have left Chelsea with an identity crisis, and yearning for stability, direction and unity.

Pochettino is a charismatic, big-name coach who knows English football and has a clear tactical approach, but unifying a club from the bottom up is, arguably, his particular strength.

When Pochettino and his staff joined Spurs in summer 2014, they found a first-class training ground but a cold atmosphere and a mentality of fear.

They set about changing the culture with simple steps, such as organising social events for the squad and their families, taking players and staff out for meals, insisting on morning handshakes and an atmosphere of respect, and encouraging team bonding such as initiation songs for new signings. Birthday celebrations become commonplace, and it was not unusual to see the families of staff and players at Hotspur Way.

Pochettino is a believer in the human touch and would often greet players and staff with a bear hug.

In an interview with Standard Sport in March 2021, Pochettino’s assistant, Jesus Perez, explained that Spurs chairman Daniel Levy was surprised when the players began coming over to greet him with a handshake at breakfast.

“The club needed to be a family,” Perez said. “If you have to battle against big, big clubs, the only way is that the people have more empathy for each other, good relations. When you were behind the big boys, every single detail matters to build a family.”

Unlike Spurs in 2014, Chelsea today have the spending power to compete with “the big boys”, but Perez’s point still stands — if the Blues want to challenge the likes of Manchester City, they need to be united.

And there are certain similarities between Chelsea today and Spurs nine years ago. Back then, Spurs were riddled with dysfunction after Tim Sherwood’s scorched-earth tenure and had a bloated squad — a combination of underachievers and unfulfilled promise.

Chelsea’s young English players should be excited given his record of producing for the national team.

Pochettino gave everyone a clean slate but quickly made ruthless decisions to drive the club forward. He can be expected to take a similar approach at Chelsea, whose squad is similarly oversized but starting from a significantly higher base. For Ryan Mason, read Enzo Fernandez; for Nacer Chadli, Kai Havertz.

Pochettino wants a new goalkeeper and centre-forward but, for a coach of his calibre, there should be solutions throughout the squad.

Chelsea’s young English players, including Noni Madueke, Carney Chukwuemeka and the energetic Conor Gallagher, should be particularly excited about working under Pochettino given his record of producing key men for the national team.

He should enjoy mutual respect with senior players N’Golo Kante and Thiago Silva, and relish moulding younger players such as Wesley Fofana, Benoit Badiashile and Mykhailo Mudryk.

His appointment would not come without some doubts. Pochettino’s preference for working with a streamline squad means club and manager have an enormous job to trim the fat in the summer, especially with no European football next season.

Mauricio Pochettino has a track record in getting the best out of players (Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)
Mauricio Pochettino has a track record in getting the best out of players (Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

It is nearly a decade since he began transforming Spurs and the 51-year-old is more established now, which may be a good thing but not necessarily. With experience comes more baggage and more ego, and perhaps a fraction less fire in the belly.

He has had just one job since leaving Spurs, an 18-month stint at Paris Saint-Germain to mixed reviews, and has been out of work for a year.

Insofar as there is a question about Pochettino’s tactical approach, it is in his team’s occasional inability to navigate a low block, which has also been a problem for toothless Chelsea this season.

For now, though, these questions seem inconsequential against the values that Pochettino could bring to Stamford Bridge, the loss of which are still being felt at his former club.