February 7 – Chelsea travel to Aston Villa tonight after their goalless draw at Stamford Bridge called for an FA Cup fourth-round replay, to gift another sleepless night to Blues boss Mauricio Pochettino who finds himself under the microscope yet again as his side continue to stumble down the Premier League table.
“I didn’t finish 12th last year, Chelsea did,” Pochettino said.
“It is a different squad to last year, many changes. You can compare to try to damage, if you want to make a problem.
“But to analyse and put all the circumstances, I don’t think that before was better or was worse. It’s difficult to compare because we are in another project.”
Villa enter the tie as favourites with Chelsea coming off the back of consecutive losses versus Liverpool and Wolves. The Villans have an almost perfect home record this season and are fresh off the back of a 5-0 thrashing of Sheffield United.
Sunday’s 4-2 loss at home to Wolves was the 10th in the Premier League since the Argentine arrived in the summer and triggered audible boos from large sections of Stamford Bridge. The result followed another lacklustre display against Liverpool, where the Blues’ leaky defence conceded another four goals.
Pochettino was a statement summer appointment for Chelsea during a window littered with high-profile additions to the €1billion Chelsea squad. Despite the staggering investment in the club that has raised more than a few eyebrows around world football, Chelsea find themselves in 11th place in the Premier League, already 20 points behind frontrunners Liverpool who they will face in the EFL Cup Final on the February 25.
A loss tonight could force Pochettino to find work elsewhere as the pressure continues to pile on.
“Football is my passion, not my job,” Pochettino said. “Sometimes we say ‘job’ but it’s the wrong word. Football is entertainment.
“Being coach, I need to keep a sense of why I am here. We cannot suffer because of business and other things. We need to be focused to play football.”
With the issue clearly hitting a nerve, the Argentinian began to unravel a bizarre introspection on the stresses of management.
“To be focused in football, you need to feel free in your mind. You cannot be affected by the stock in New York or Tokyo, or the weather, or because the farm doesn’t grow,” he said.
“That’s why I keep my hair like this, because I don’t suffer from things that I am not in charge of. I only suffer for football – to try to improve the players, to provide them a good platform to win games.
“If there is no rain on my farm, you kill the business of my farm. That is a stress. You can lose your hair. But I cannot lose my hair because we’re not winning because the opponent was better than us.”
To add to the pressure on Poch, €120 million man Enzo Fernandez has hinted he wants out of the West London club, just 13 months after joining. He has said that the results generated by the side haven’t met his expectations of the project he was promised ahead of signing for Chelsea for a then Premier League record fee.
The bombshell announcement exposed the elephant in the room: perhaps signing an eight-and-a-half-year deal for mid-table Chelsea wasn’t the smartest idea.
Contact the writer of this story, Harry Ewing, at firstname.lastname@example.org