Sunday People

Big calls needed, Poch to sort out a big mess


WHEN Chelsea’s team coach rolls into the Etihad today, those on board should savour the atmosphere.

They will see happy supporters, as far as the eye can see, gathering in anticipati­on of a landmark moment in English football.

Blues fans will remember those days – after all, it was only six years ago that the club last lifted the Premier League trophy.

Yes, they should allow that sight of Manchester City’s supporters enjoying their afternoon in the May sunshine to sink in.

Because it could be years before they return to the top.

Mauricio Pochettino accepted the opportunit­y to restore the southwest London club’s fortunes this week.

That’s a brave move – by both parties.

The Argentine splits opinion. There are those who believe he turned Southampto­n from also-rans into a solid, mid-table outfit before leading Tottenham to the brink of European glory. And there are others – me included – who believe Nigel Adkins left behind a decent group at St Mary’s and that Pochettino was bequeathed 30-goals-a-season striker Harry Kane and should have done better than fail, repeatedly, in north London.

One thing’s for sure, a serial winner in the mould of past Blues bosses Carlo Ancelotti, Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho, he ain’t.

However, by the time

Pochettino’s reign is over at Stamford Bridge, we will know for sure.

Why is that?

Because he’s got his work cut out and his calls over the next 12-18 months will shape Chelsea’s destiny for years to come.

The club is at a crossroads. Top-heavy with players who were happy to sign on the dotted line because of the riches on offer without really thinking about where they fitted into the grand plan.

This hotch-potch of talent has been devoid of structure as hapless

Frank Lampard has rolled with punches that have flown thick and fast in his direction.

His predecesso­r, Graham Potter, looked like he had been left in an escape room without any clues as to how to get out and slowly suffocated.

The confusion is seen through a nosedive in results. It’s been marked. For years, Chelsea were protected. In the boardroom, by Roman Abramovich and his cohorts. Out on the pitch, star turns such as Didier Drogba, Lampard, Ashley Cole, Petr Cech and John Terry were serious talents.

In Terry’s case, every inch the ‘Captain, leader, legend’.

Take one look at the dressingro­om these days and there’s only late thirty-something Thiago Silva who appears capable of providing the kind of backbone needed to thrive in the Premier League.

It’s a ball of ‘meh’ as far as the eye can see if you are looking for the characters to drive dressing-room culture.

Let Chelsea gaze instead upon Manchester City. Winners, to a man.

Arsenal are developing. Martin Odegaard has set an example this season. Manchester United have Bruno Fernandes, Lisandro Martinez, Casemiro and even Luke Shaw.

Newcastle United? Kieran Trippier. Liverpool? Jordan Henderson and the soon-to-be-departed James Milner.

Where’s the spit and fire in Kai Havertz’s belly? He looks as if the word ‘flaky’ was invented to describe him, and he’s not alone.

Pochettino needs to make big calls, and quickly, if he is to stop the rot.

He needs men in the mould of the 2012 Champions League side.

Proper, grizzled, nasty, stop-atnothing winners.

And unless he finds them, and quickly, Chelsea’s turnaround could be a lot more tricky than people


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