DANNY MURPHY: Watch out, Pep Guardiola! Mauricio Pochettino’s Chelsea play better against the big boys… his real passion is for attacking football and the club are in safe hands
- Mauricio Pochettino’s front-footed Chelsea play better against stronger sides
- They will try to be adventurous against Manchester City with confidence key
- Why we should get excited about Cole Palmer – Listen here to It’s All Coming Up
I was struck by Mauricio Pochettino’s warmth when we first met at a Spurs game in 2018. He gave up a bit of time talking to my son before inviting him into the dressing room to have pictures taken with Harry Kane and others.
It showed how relaxed he was an hour before kick-off.
Fast forward four years and we were staying in the same complex at the World Cup, able to chat about football – usually by the swimming pool!
Again, I was impressed with his knowledge and honesty, qualities I think are going to serve Chelsea well.
My overriding impression was his passion for the game. He would be asked about working with Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe at Paris Saint-Germain but was knowledgeable about players of all nationalities and levels.
Chelsea will be adventurous against Manchester City and play better against bigger sides
Mauricio Pochettino favours front-foot football and his passion is for an attacking style
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One conversation which is particularly relevant to Sunday’s Chelsea-Manchester City game was Poch’s glowing praise for Josko Gvardiol after watching him play in defence for Croatia. ‘Quick, strong, super footballer’ were phrases that spring to mind. He’ll be hoping Gvardiol has an off day at Stamford Bridge!
Pochettino’s achievements at Spurs were significant with a young, energetic team and he is even better equipped as a manager now, having dealt with huge egos at PSG, something he admitted had been a test.
It was also clear to me that Poch will always be a coach who wants to play on the front foot. His real passion is for attacking football.
His Chelsea will have a go even if it is taking some time to create a foundation before implementing his style.
I saw them win at Tottenham on Monday night and the way Nicolas Jackson, Raheem Sterling and Conor Gallagher pressed at 1-1 was pure Poch and a sign of things to come.
Even against City, I think they will try to be adventurous. Confidence is so important to young players and scoring four at Spurs will have given them huge belief.
Pochettino will hope to catch City on an off day though confidence is crucial for his team
The way Raheem Sterling and his team-mates pressed Tottenham is a sign of things to come
Poch likes players who do the work. Even his first team at Spurs had great athletes in Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembele, who allowed the creative players to shine.
I am interested to see Gallagher, a player many predicted would leave Chelsea, becoming so important this season because of his physical output. Remember, Pochettino was a tough player himself.
It was nigh on impossible for him to get the PSG galacticos to do the hard yards off the ball. He will not carry any passengers at Chelsea or build an unbalanced side. I am sure once he saw Gallagher in training he thought, ‘He’ll do for me’.
Enzo Fernandez has talent and is only 22 but at £109million needs to get fitter and be more influential with and without the ball. If he needs a role model, he need only look at the opposition on Sunday and see what Bernardo Silva has achieved at City.
You would not regard Bernardo as the quickest or strongest but by his work ethic and smarts in knowing when to fill a hole or intercept he has become defensively reliable for Pep Guardiola. Fernandez would have adapted quicker to the Premier League if he had had a Michael Essien or N’Golo Kante alongside him.
But this is a Chelsea team short of experience, save for Thiago Silva and Raheem Sterling, so he is going to have to learn it himself.
Pochettino will not tolerate passengers, with Conor Gallagher’s hard work crucial this season
It would be nonsensial to abandon Pochettino’s project and they will finish the year strongly
The poor start Chelsea made to the season might rule them out of a top-four finish but it would be nonsensical to abandon the Pochettino project. I predict a very strong second half to the campaign and for them to be serious Champions League contenders next season, particularly with Christopher Nkunku fit up front.
I have seen Chelsea live and can see a definite pattern of play emerging. Ironically, they play better against the stronger sides, which augurs well for the City clash. It is when they have to try to break down teams in a low block, like Brentford, that they struggle.
Pochettino has his 4-3-3 system and the versatility of someone like Cole Palmer is useful. His match intelligence is terrific. He can play in one of the forward positions with Jackson and Sterling if it is a game where Chelsea may have to chase possession a bit more.
Against the lesser teams, Palmer can drop into a number 10 role and let Mykhailo Mudryk loose on the wing.
One of the privileges of my job in the media is meeting and talking to the best managers. Pochettino left his mark on me. Chelsea are in safe, and knowledgeable, hands.
IT’S ALL KICKING OFF!
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