Mauricio Pochettino tactics: Chelsea players who’ll benefit the most in his reign

Vatsal Gupta
By Vatsal Gupta
8 Min Read

It’s official. Mauricio Pochettino has been confirmed as Chelsea’s head coach and with that announcement, Stamford Bridge can truly look forward to a new era and close the chapter on this nightmare season. Mauricio Pochettino’s tactics and management so far in his career has helped launch the career of many players like Luke Shaw (Southampton) and Harry Kane (Tottenham). Chelsea fans and owner Todd Boehly will be hoping that he can similarly energise this current squad suffering from malaise.

Here are five Chelsea players who’ll benefit the most from Mauricio Pochettino’s tactics and set-up:

Reece James

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Flying fullbacks are a staple of a Mauricio Pochettino team. Be it the memorable Tottenham duo of Kyle Walker and Danny Rose, Nuno Mendes’ rise at PSG, or Luke Shaw at Southampton, the fullback role is one of the most crucial ones.

Pochettino’s fullbacks are engines with endless stamina. Tough fitness work is prioritised by Pochettino in the beginning of his tenure as he seeks to implement his pressing game.

Reece James, therefore, will benefit in two ways. He has been fairly injury-prone in his Chelsea tenure and missed a good chunk of this season as well, playing just 16 Premier League games. So, Pochettino’s fitness work and emphasis on sports science should unlock his full potential.

Secondly, on the playing side, James is entering what should be his years of athleticism. There can be no better manager than James to harness that athleticism and make him a two-way threat. He is already a handful in attack, but he suffers from defensive lapses sometimes. His profile is remarkably similar to Kyle Walker’s when Pochettino arrived at Spurs.

If he can work the same magic on James that he did on Walker, Chelsea fans will be in for a treat.

Conor Gallagher

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Mauricio Pochettino loves his core of homegrown players in a teachable age range he can mould into the perfect “Poch player”. Conor Gallagher fits that mould like a glove.

As an industrious midfielder who has a feel for breaking through the lines, Gallagher has been a symbol of consistency in the chaos of Chelsea’s season. Mauricio Pochettino loves pressing monsters in the middle of the park and Gallagher has the potential to perform that role perfectly.

Gallagher has arguably not received proper coaching so far to channelise his work-rate and athleticism. As Pochettino begins to implement pressing patterns and counter-pressing triggers, one can expect Gallagher’s game to take a leap. Furthermore, his feel for goals can prompt Pochettino into playing him further forward.

In a dream scenario for Chelsea fans, Gallagher converts into the Chelsea version of Poch’s Dele Alli at Tottenham. Talking of Dele Alli…

Kai Havertz

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Some players are so naturally gifted that all they need to succeed is a manager who believes in them and a settled role in the team. Havertz has had neither, and still produced the good fairly often.

It is tantalising to think about the levels he could achieve under Pochettino. Havertz is a unique player, wherein he is not a conventional No 9, but is far too clinical and skilful to play away from the box. Managers have tried him on the wing, as a striker, and as a false nine to no avail.

In a Pochettino team, he can be his best self in the “Shadow Striker” role where he starts deeper, gets involved in the buildup, and reaches the box at the opportune time to finish off moves. This role was played to perfection by Dele Alli at Tottenham who was arguably less technically proficient than Havertz. An improved version of a Dele Alli-type player is a terrifying prospect. If that is unlocked, Kai Havertz would be set to have his most productive season yet.

Marc Cucurella

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Centre-back in a back three or back four? Left-back or left-wing-back? Marc Cucurella has had a torrid season after moving to Chelsea in a blockbuster move worth more than £60 million from Brighton.

More than hope, it’s a necessity that this investment works out and one can presume Pochettino will feel the same. Cucurella’s case is a unique one. He gained fame after playing a very specific role as a left-sided centre-back in Graham Potter’s three-at-the-back formation at Brighton.

It allowed him to venture forward, and his endless stamina allowed him to come back to help out his defence as well. Even when he couldn’t he was surrounded by enough players at the back that he wasn’t exposed. The opposite of that happened at Chelsea. Shuffled across the backline pretty much every game, combined with the pressure of the fee left Cucurella looking like a shell of the player he was at Brighton.

Pochettino’s “arm around the shoulder” man-management style will be needed to inject belief in him again. From there, a settled shape and team should bring back the version of Cucurella that prompted Chelsea to splash £60 on him.

Wesley Fofana

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Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen enjoyed the best seasons of their career under Mauricio Pochettino. The main reason for that is how much emphasis Pochettino puts on defending as a team. That makes the job of defence easier when everybody is involved in defending.

Wesley Fofana, like other big-money signings at Chelsea this season, has looked shorn of confidence. At his best, he is an elegant ball player in defence who likes to defend on the front foot.

That profile of a player is ideal for a Pochettino team. Fofana is a very similar type of player to what Toby Alderweireld was during his Tottenham years. He is capable of playing raking long passes capable of changing defence to attack in an instant. He likes to cover spaces on the pitch instead of mindlessly lunging into tackles (this season notwithstanding).

If Pochettino succeeds in getting this Chelsea squad to defend as a team, Fofana will be the biggest beneficiary, especially as Thiago Silva is getting up there in age. He has the potential to be the leader of Chelsea’s backline for the next decade. It is up to his hard work and Pochettino’s coaching to make it a reality.

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