Chelsea’s season has been, in large part, defined by one of those most classic of young-and-new-team characteristics, inconsistency that manifests in playing up or down to the level of our competition.
But that trend came to a crashing halt last weekend, when we certainly did not play up to Newcastle United’s level, below-par as they themselves might have been. While the first half was decent, things fell apart harder than a Yeats poem in the second and we trudged back home with a stinky 4-1 defeat in the bag.
A response to that this weekend is the least of anyone’s expectations. Mauricio Pochettino dropped his unbridled positivity act post-Newcastle and laid into his young charges, relatively speaking, harder than ever (at least in public). We’re approaching nearly half a year of Poch working with these players and he clearly had a moment of frustrations boiling over. He wants to see progress as much as we do, but we keep shooting ourselves in the foot — I would say proverbially, but it’s nearly a literal manifestation, sans bullets.
“It was a tough week for everyone. [...] After you watch the game [again], I think it was worse, my feelings after the game. I was tough with them inside and outside. [...] It was really, really tough in training and in meetings. But sometimes this type of situation helps a lot to improve.”
“[...] It’s not the opponent. [...] We are our own worst enemies and we need to be focused on us. If we are in a good place, then for sure we will compete in a good way. We are going to pay attention [to Brighton], but at the moment in this process, I think we need to pay more attention to ourselves rather than the opponent.”
And some of our poor decisions last weekend are having a massive effect on our prospects this weekend as well. We’re currently without an available full back, for example, unless you count Ian Maatsen, who’s neither rated nor played in that position by the head coach. Malo Gusto is injured, Ben Chilwell’s injured, Marc Cucurella’s suspended after getting his fifth yellow of the season, and Reece James got himself sent off for a most silly pair of yellow cards. We’ve chalked that up to a learning experience for our captain, but that really shouldn’t be something he has to learn anymore.
It seems inevitable that we’ll be playing Levi Colwill and Axel Disasi as our full backs — out with wingers-as-fullbacks and in with center-backs-as-fullbacks! — and that’s not exactly ideal.
But above all that, we cannot produce another 45 minutes like the second half against Newcastle, regardless of who plays, who plays where, or what the score may be. And that’s a responsibility that everyone has to take on, coaches and players alike.
“I am very happy because I think they (the players) react very well. [But] it’s to blame ourselves also because I think maybe our approach was wrong and that is to take the responsibility, too. I think it was a good week to realise things we need to improve. We need to be more consistent, more mature. There are things we cannot afford in this process.
“[...] It’s not the players on one side and the coaching staff on the other side. Everyone works together. I think it’s always about to put the context on the situation and I think it’s important that the players feel the coaches in a natural way when we are angry and when we are happy. We were tough in our analysis, but tough is about to tell the truth, to show the things we didn’t do, of course, but it’s not to blame them, it’s about to blame everyone.
“[We] are a young team, maybe sometimes we need to be tough to learn and sometimes to be nice, and we need to choose in the way we are going to express ourselves and translate the ideas. It’s not about after if we feel really well because we are talking some way or if we express ourselves in some direction. It’s about whether they get what we want.
“[...] I feel happy because the week was good. Of course I am not happy after the last game. We know really well that we need to perform and to recover the points that we lose against Newcastle.”
-Mauricio Pochettino; source: Football.London
Here’s to getting back on track, and against Brighton of all teams!