Mauricio Pochettino entered the Cobham training ground on Monday morning for his first official day in office with no illusions about the daunting task ahead.
Chelsea wasted little time in completing what has been described as the “first phase” of bouncing back from last season’s wreckage.
Pochettino has the charisma, caliber and character to find solutions to the current malaise, and after £212million of talent was offloaded before the end of the last financial year on June 30, the Argentine must now embark on the next phase of the Stamford. Reconstruction of the bridge.
Sky Sports News Journalist Dharmesh Sheth and Ben Grounds take an in-depth look at what’s left on Pochettino’s set.
Continue to cut the inflated team
Pochettino inherited 35 first-team players. That did not include Malo Gusto and Andrey Santos, who this summer will join the squad for the first time after signing for Chelsea during the £600m spending spree of the last two transfer windows.
The sales of N’Golo Kante, Kalidou Koulibaly, Mateo Kovacic, Edouard Mendy, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Kai Havertz helped reduce a bloated squad.
Mason Mount is undergoing his medical at Manchester United, but there are still players who have been deemed surplus to requirements.
Lyon have made a bid worth £21.5m for striker Christian Pulisic and talks over a payment structure are ongoing. AC Milan remain keen – but have yet to make an official offer.
Meanwhile, Chelsea are close to an agreement on a mutual termination of captain Cesar Azplicueta’s contract. This would allow Azpilicueta to become a free agent. Atletico Madrid are ready to complete a deal while Inter Milan are also said to be interested.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Trevoh Chalobah and Marc Cucurella all belong to this same category.
Does Lukaku still have a future?
As playing staff arrive through the training doors on Tuesday, some players who were on international duty with their countries for the European Qualifiers have been given an extended break.
For Pochettino, this will have given him some breathing space for the return of Romelu Lukaku.
Inter Milan continue to work on a deal for the striker. They are yet to make an offer that Chelsea are happy with.
The Belgian striker’s future was in serious doubt when he left for Inter Milan on loan last summer after his relationship with Thomas Tuchel broke down.
Lukaku can still apply for a permanent move, but he is on £350,000 a week. He can claim he has unfinished business – not for the first time – and the bitter taste of his second coming may have eased with the change of manager.
Chelsea signed Jackson and Nkunku – but the goalscoring dearth last season underscored the need for options if these Premier League signings struggle to get off to a good start.
With other loan deals ruled out and only permanent moves considered for Lukaku is a conundrum for Pochettino to solve.
What’s up on the Caicedo lawsuit?
Brighton midfielder Moises Caicedo is the club’s next transfer priority following the arrivals of Christopher Nkunku and Nicolas Jackson for a total of £84million.
Chelsea are expected to officially approach Brighton once a number of outgoing deals have been finalized.
Now that Kovacic and Kante are gone – and Mount will soon follow – Pochettino will prioritize Enzo Fernandez’s partnership with Caicedo in midfield.
The Ecuadorian was a vital cog as Brighton finished sixth but was the subject of strong interest from several clubs.
Brighton rejected a £70million offer from Arsenal in January and are demanding £100million. Chelsea are hoping to bring the player’s valuation down to around £80million.
Restoring trust and oozing right
Too often last season, Chelsea’s body language betrayed the game. Confidence and belief were at rock bottom. Frank Lampard failed to win a single home game.
In 2014, when Pochettino arrived at Tottenham, he made a point of reminding his players of the club’s history and its expectations. Graham Potter was insecure and never seemed natural.
Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte both won the title and oozed a right bordering on arrogance. While Pochettino failed to secure silverware for Spurs, he guided them to a Champions League final with bluster.
Image is just as important to the identity of the club as the trophy for the last 20 years and Pochettino must show the personality to meet both requirements.
The new manager will be tasked with recreating a winning culture while continuing to make key decisions on the future of several senior players.
Pochettino is said to arrange his office to include a bowl of lemons nearby to absorb any negative energy. The greater the negativity, the theory goes, the faster the lemons rot.
The 51-year-old hopes the more he embarks on his first summer in charge, the juicier the citrus fruits will become. For now, he can at least think about installing his first team in the same locker room.
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“Suddenly I hear Pochettino. I like him but it’s Tottenham. The man has to understand, he’s American. It’s like a Yankee is going to play for the Mets. It doesn’t happen. It shouldn’t not happen.”
The words of Paul Merson, a self-proclaimed Chelsea fan, on hearing the news of Pochettino’s name emerging as the club’s favourite.
It’s a date that has divided the fan base, but the results and the quick work done to remove those not in his plans will have already started to change the mood.
A Tottenham fan has gone viral for burning Guillem Balague The best of worlds – a biography tracing the rise of Pochettino. In his eyes, he is public enemy No. 1 after joining his neighbors.
Pochettino must continue to silence the Spurs connection as he embarks on the pre-season.
Ultimately, his reign will be defined by his players.
Mykhailo Mudryk performed well for Ukraine as they beat France to book their place in the European U21 Championship final on Sunday night. Chelsea planned to rebuild their confidence in Georgia and Romania, but a minor muscle injury kept them out of the group stage.
Despite showing flashes of genius, the 22-year-old winger struggled to justify the £88.5million transfer fee to Shakhtar Donetsk.
Fifteen appearances and only two assists. Mudryk is yet to find the net despite only playing 90 minutes in the Premier League once.
Starting just seven games and having come off the bench eight times, Mudryk is now hoping for a string of games under Pochettino.
Mudryk made his first appearance at Anfield in January and impressed with his cameo. The new Premier League fixture list gave him the perfect opportunity for a fresh start, where it all began.
Will Colwill be part of the new defense?
Levi Colwill wants to talk with Pochettino about his status in the team before considering discussing a new contract.
Chelsea have insisted the player is not for sale this summer after a fine season on loan at Brighton and they want to approach him to discuss a new deal.
However, the England U21 international is keen to understand where he fits in Pochettino’s plans this season and how much regular playing time he can expect, before discussing new terms.
Colwill, who is contracted until 2025, will seek to understand how fundamental he is to those plans when he returns to pre-season training after his England U21 service.
Colwill is widely regarded as one of England’s hottest centre-back prospects and is something of a commodity given that he is left-footed.
But he is also in competition with Benoit Badiashile – a £35million signing from Monaco in January – for the left-sided centre-back role at Chelsea.
Brighton wanted to sign Colwill permanently this summer but a £30million offer was flatly rejected amid Chelsea’s insistence he is not for sale and is wanted under plans to Pochettino.
As well as Brighton, Colwill was on the target lists of many Premier League clubs.