Mauricio Pochettino hits back at Chelsea critics and hints more transfers will solve the problem

By Staff

Once again Chelsea made things as difficult as they could for themselves as they required two late goals after a Callum Doyle red card to secure a 4-2 victory over Championship side Leicester City in the FA Cup. Mauricio Pochettino reaches his second cup semi-final in his first season with the club and will hope to avenge their League Cup defeat to Liverpool in the process.

A game that had everything in SW6 with Chelsea taking a comfortable 2-0 lead into the break which appeared to set up a straightforward second half. Marc Cururella gave the Blues a 13-minute lead after a simple touch into an open goal following good work from Nicolas Jackson.

When Raheem Sterling went down from Abdul Fatuwa to win a penalty, it seemed like this would continue their route to a strong win. However, the England international, snubbed by Gareth Southgate this week, struck one of the worst-hit spot kicks you will see and Jakub Stolarczyk comfortably parried it away.

This would mark the first of several incidents leading Sterling to a poor afternoon, despite the fact he set up Cole Palmer for his goal with a good low pass he would go on to be booed off following a skied free-kick when the game was level. The equaliser came after a chaotic own goal from Axel Disasi just six minutes into the second period with Stephy Mavididi then producing one of the goals of the tournament with a right-footed long-range curler into the top right corner.

The red card on 73 minutes however did indeed flip the game firmly in the home side’s control. But it required further brilliance to win it with a sublime Palmer flick setting up Carney Chukwuemeka and then a brilliant curling strike from Noni Madueke, both in added time, to secure the route to Wembley.

It was an encouraging end and perhaps a message to Pochettino that some of the starlets on his bench should be getting more of a chance than the likes of Sterling.

READ MORE: Raheem Sterling woeful, Cole Palmer superb – Chelsea player ratings vs Leicester in FA Cup win

READ MORE: Every word Mauricio Pochettino said on Raheem Sterling boos, Mudryk substitution and Wembley

Is it as simple as balance?

Chelsea just cannot avoid conceding goals and have let in two in each of their last four matches against Leicester, Newcastle, Brentford and Leeds United. Thankfully for Mauricio Pochettino, his side have scored more than two in three of those four yet it still raises questions.

There have been a number of attacking combinations of full-backs with Malo Gusto featuring on the right in all of them. Only at Brentford did they switch to a back four and that happened to be the clash which lacked the most attacking verve from the Blues.

Granted it was an own goal and a brilliant strike which cost Chelsea the goals but it shouldn’t be underestimated how many times the away side got into threatening areas in the wide areas. Both Gusto and Cucurella are naturally forward-thinking full-backs and this opens up space in behind for attacks.

The top sides in the league are so often using unorthodox techniques to try and not only build from the back but defend more conservatively. Arsenal use both Ben White and Jakub Kiwior, whilst Manchester City often use Nathan Ake, Josko Gvardiol and Manuel Akanji and Liverpool have opted for Joe Gomez on both sides in big games.

The question is do Chelsea need to find a way of combating these deficiencies and could it come in the form of a more defensively astute full back selection? There are options in the ranks but a consistent selection is perhaps what will build familiarity and confidence between players the most.

‘I am not stupid’

Mauricio Pochettino spoke bullishly during his press conference after the game. Naturally he was asked about the decision to substitute Mykhailo Mudryk before then bringing off Raheem Sterling and as the Ukrainian’s number was held aloft the Blues supporters gave the Argentine quite the reaction.

However, when asked about the choice he replied: “I am not here to give the people what they want.” Adding, “I am not stupid.”

“You know, I think for me, I saw Mudryk and we analyze and he was tired, he was doing some stretching and we thought that maybe he’d not finish the game and then we will decide, you know, to go for first for Mudryk and then for Raheem.”

Makes sense when explained as such. Furthermore it was two substitutes which would grab the winning goals on the day perhaps rightfully sending credit in Pochettino’s direction for the manner of the switches.

Pochettino speaks very well about the project and seemingly, if he is to be believed, the club are fully supportive of him and it seems the work behind the scenes is not done. It was evident from how he spoke that he would like further recruitment to get in the players they need.

He is well aware that the position in the table is not good enough and things need to change. However, this is the second time Chelsea will go to Wembley, two more than league leaders Arsenal it should be said and a win in the tournament would do wonders for his own reputation and win back plenty of faith.

What is needed?

After so much money having already been spent, the question of what could Chelsea still possibly need might be coming from plenty of fans of other sides. Yet regular watchers of the Blues are more than aware of the gaps that exist in the group and the deficiencies of some of the less successful signings.

A creative player is desperately needed. Mudryk was used in a central role in the absence of Enzo Fernandez but whilst Arsenal enjoy the output of Martinn Odegaard and City feed of Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva, it seems Chelea are crying out for that orchestrator.

With the number of goals that the side are leaking it would appear they need a defender but after so many investments in the back line, adding another seems overkill. That said, if they can find a versatile option who could operate as a disciplined full-back as alluded to before that might indeed be the way forward.

Lastly is the goalkeeper. Robert Sanchez and Dorde Petrovic are of a good standing but the Blues need to find more comfortable distributor of the ball to offer defenders the confidence that they can operate with an additional defender like David Raya, Alisson and Ederson all achieve at the top end of the league.

However, as Pochettino says there remain eleven matches for his side to finish as high up the table as possible in order to help convince future signings of their project. Another summer of rebuilding awaits but there are signs of promise for supporters to latch on to.

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