One of the narratives (expectations) we’ve set for this season of “transition” is that even if results overall aren’t (yet) where we want them to be — i.e. on pace for midtable instead of top-four — we should be seeing progress and improvement in our performances.
But as Mauricio Pochettino readily admits, the last couple defeats have been two of our worst, if not the two worst performances of the season. And while the win against Brighton in between the losses to Newcastle United and Manchester United was commendable and inspiring for several reasons, we appear to making the opposite of progress at the moment. (So, Congress? That’s an old joke about politicians for ya.)
After nearly half a year of this group of players and coaches working together, we seem to be moving backwards: the familiar issues in finishing, defending, and midfield-ing becoming more amplified and exasperating.
But Pochettino believes this is just a minor phase,
one some of our bad days. He certainly has to believe this, and has to project it to us and to the players as well, in order to do his job effectively — though that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s wrong, or right. Let’s hope it’s the latter!
“It is not fair to talk too much about progress because all of the circumstances are difficult because we need to evaluate day by day and game by game. It’s true, it’s not excuse because we are in a club that needs to win and deliver our job. We know the club better, we know the squad, the players, some players injured from the beginning of the season, the relationship with the staff and people here is a massive progress for us and for the team because we know them.
“Every single player knows what we expect from them, another thing is to deliver the job, another thing is to perform. I think we need to improve with time, for different reasons, for different circumstances we are not getting what we want. I think we deserve much more from the beginning of the season, the last few weeks we drop our performance, I am fair and realistic in our assessment. We need to get a good way to start to perform better again.
“After Brighton, the feelings were different, after Manchester [United] we cannot move in extremes, we cannot go from 0 to 100, 100 to 0. This type of period is normal, it is tough because we are Chelsea. We need to see the reality that sometimes we struggle and we don’t have the possibility to use all of the elements of the squad. Not only us, any club in the Premier League can struggle. [A lot of] positive things from the beginning of the season, it’s about to try to keep going, being calm, not too much when we win, not too down when we lose. The balance is the most important in this period.”
In fairness, Pochettino has indeed been quite consistent in his messaging, both in terms of expectations and in terms of what he’s trying to build — perhaps a bit too bold at the very start, but new hope always springs in the summer.
The harsh reality of winter is now here, and our sweet summer children (who still will not include Christopher Nkunku or Roméo Lavia) quickly need to figure out how to deal with that.
“[...] To finish and to start to perform and be consistent, it is a process that always takes time. We know really well what we want and after you need also some luck to keep the players fit or involved, to increase the competition between them until we find this momentum. At the moment we need to stay calm, keep pushing because we are so close [...] to build confidence and trust but we are going to keep pushing, working really hard. I think we know what we need to do and only with time that happens.”
“[...] When we talk about young players they need to be in a place to feel comfortable and feel the confidence. We cannot forget we are at Chelsea and the pressure is massive. When you don’t win, you feel the pressure. It is not the same to use this badge as another. We know what we need to do. It is a matter of time, sometimes it is six months, sometimes maybe one year or four months. I think we are sure, we are building something that will pay off.”
-Mauricio Pochettino; source: Football.London
Everton, who would be one point ahead of us were it not for their ten-point deduction, await on Sunday ... at Goodison, where they just beat Newcastle, 3-0.
Keeping calm could become an even greater challenge after that.