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From goals to no soul: Chelsea on road to stagnation after Mauricio Pochettino exit

Chelsea parted ways with Mauricio Pochettino on Tuesday evening feeling they were making the correct strategic call, yet fans will argue the decision is one of many that could suck the life out of their club.

Supporting a club like Chelsea comes with its pros and cons. You could probably make that case for any club, but with Chelsea, you know that emotionally investing yourself to a manager of player comes with its consequences.

Blues fans have had it all season with regards to Conor Gallagher. The homegrown, midfield enforcer full of pent-up aggression and desire having had to go the long way round to showcase why he should be his team's leader for the next decade, only to play his football with the feeling of being forced out by what has effectively become a bureaucracy off the pitch.

That is what has made his performances all the more impressive. His back has constantly been against the wall. One false move and Todd Boehly and co could add it to their short list of justifiable reasons to cash in this summer. Head coach Mauricio Pochettino has found himself facing extremely similar circumstances.

Chelsea head coach Mauricio Pochettino during defeat to Arsenal on April 23, 2024.© Reuters

When the news broke on Tuesday that Pochettino was leaving Chelsea, the hearts of the majority of a fanbase would have sunk, even some of those who initially had reservations about a former Tottenham Hotspur boss representing their club. Perhaps more importantly, the players would have felt the same.

Pochettino emerges with enhanced reputation

Ignore the headlines regarding transfer fees, Pochettino has had to deal with a storm this season. He was presented with players he did not necessarily want to sign. He was left with one of the youngest, most expensively-assembled squads in the history of football. On-the-field squabbling over penalties. Moulding personalities on a daily basis. Dealing with crises in confidence. Never having a fully-fit squad. The list could go on.

And yet he reached the full-time whistle against Bournemouth on Sunday afternoon not knowing whether ending the season with five successive victories when he and his players had to deliver on each occasion was enough to keep him in a job. It is lunacy.

There have been enough reports to have confidence in this being a mutual decision. From the Argentine's perspective, he knows his reputation has not only been saved, it has been enhanced. There are projects at Manchester United and Bayern Munich that surely have his name on it.

However, the fact that Pochettino's - or Gallagher's - departure was or is on the table in the first place should be met by the condemnation that it warrants.

Mauricio Pochettino celebrating Chelsea's win over Manchester United on April 4, 2024.© Reuters

Boehly, Eghbali missing the point

Chelsea scored 103 goals during Pochettino's 51 matches in charge. As many as 35 came in the final 13 Premier League fixtures, a run which featured just one defeat. Aside from that 5-0 loss at Arsenal, Chelsea netted at least twice in every game.

Nevertheless, regardless of this being as contradictory as it sounds, Boehly and Clearlake see football - and sport in general - as entertainment. It is a complex business, people get that, but they are prepared to risk alienation with the club's core in order to enforce a strategic model that is pushing the limits in every way possible. Again, lunacy.

Within a week of ticket prices being increased for the first time in 13 years, there have been countless claims that the co-owners are prepared to pay £55m for a Brazilian prospect who only turned 17 last month. It would be wrong to associate the two developments hand in hand, yet it is another clear sign Boehly and Behdad Eghbali care little for public perception.

There is a naivety about how they conduct their business. There always has been, but the biggest naivety is ignoring the importance of emotional investment. When you support a club at any level, you want to be taken on a journey. You want to know what you are watching means something. You want to be assured that everyone is fighting, co-operating, in unison towards the same goal. Instead, Chelsea are becoming that Netflix series you enjoy watching that gets pulled after a few episodes.

Co-owner and Chelsea chairman Todd Boehly reacts after the match on March 11, 2024© Reuters

Boehly and Eghbali are showing they are prepared to rip the heart out of the club. No new contract for 39-year-old Thiago Silva felt like the right time, granted, but refusing to compromise with an invested Pochettino over transfers, being hellbent on selling an invested Gallagher, as well as Trevoh Chalobah who features in the same bracket? Chelsea are on the road to becoming soulless.

Tuchel is only saviour

Chelsea are now allegedly being viewed as "an opportunity" by a wide array of managers around Europe. Boehly and Eghbali - as well as sporting directors Paul Winstanley and Laurence Stewart - are said to be fixated with appointing a certain type of "young" manager, regardless of their experience. Given how Pochettino has left the club, it feels like they want someone who will not dispute their method. Who will nod their head and keep their mouth shut.

And that is perhaps why a reunion with the universally-loved Thomas Tuchel - the Champions-League-winning head coach that the owners sacked within months of their arrival - is probably no more than a pipedream for Chelsea fans. Many of Tuchel's jobs around Europe have ended in disagreements behind the scenes, but there is no other manager on the market who will be able to engineer a reconciliation between Chelsea's fans and owners.

In whichever context you look at, a turbulent period is around the corner for Chelsea. There was a time when meeting the Premier League's Profit and Sustainability Rules was the priority, but Boehly and Eghbali are distancing themselves from what attracts the traditional supporter to a football club by the month - you could say the week - where they could soon reach the point of no return.

Ever since Abramovich stepped through the door in 2003, Chelsea and chaos have gone hand in hand, yet you sense that we may have seen nothing yet.

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Co-owner and Chelsea chairman Todd Boehly reacts after the match on March 11, 2024
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