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Chelsea land Brentford set-piece guru Bernardo Cueva despite Pochettino reservations

Mexican Bernardo Cueva/Chelsea land Brentford set-piece guru despite Mauricio Pochettino reservations
Mexican Bernardo Cueva will leave Brentford at the end of the season - Shutterstock/Ian Stephen

Chelsea have reached an agreement with Brentford for set-piece guru Bernardo Cueva to join the club next season.

Telegraph Sport revealed that Chelsea are setting up a new set-piece department and identified Cueva to take a senior role in it.

‌Cueva will now finish the season with Brentford before starting work with Chelsea in the summer, despite the apparent scepticism of head coach Mauricio Pochettino.

‌Chelsea claim Pochettino has been involved in the process of creating a set-piece department, despite sources stating otherwise and the Argentine dismissing the importance of specialists last month.

‌Pochettino declared that “football belongs to the players, not to the specialists” and suggested the club should look to the summer transfer market to improve their set-piece record.

‌“We work a lot on set-pieces. After that, it is about the quality of the player. It is about the takers,” said Pochettino “We don’t have a specialist. Maybe Chilly [Ben Chilwell] is good in the delivery but after that, we don’t have a specialist. If you want to be good at set-pieces, we work a lot. But then you need good takers.

‌“When you have good takers, and of course, Wolves have good takers, and like Manchester City have or other clubs. It is not down to the work. We work similarly. But the problem is to have good takers.

‌“We have specialists [coaches]. We are a coaching staff in charge of everything. You can have a specialist and you can promote the specialist. Or you can have the specialist and not promote the specialist. It depends how you want to sell the idea of working on set-pieces. We have a specialist, we have a group of analysts for set-pieces, we have the coaching staff and we work a lot. And then it is about the quality. At the moment, we were talking about trying to find a good specialist [player] for next season.

‌“Look before at West Ham and after. What changed? After and before? It’s not the same. The taker is [James] Ward-Prowse. Or he is Pochettino, no? Prowsey is a much better taker than me. For sure, you can work, like West Ham were working. But now, you add a player like him, you increase the percentage. That is football. Football belongs to the players. Not to the specialists.”

‌Cueva’s official title at Brentford is ‘tactical statistician’, which includes responsibility for the set-pieces and he will often shout instructions to the players from the technical area. He was booked during Brentford’s victory at Stamford Bridge earlier this season.

Chelsea fans will recognise Cueva from earlier in the season when he was booked during Brentford's 2-0 win
Chelsea fans will recognise Cueva from earlier in the season when he was booked during Brentford's 2-0 win - AFP/Justin Tallis

‌Born in Mexico, Cueva was previously strategic analysis manager at Club Deportivo Guadalajara, known as Chivas, before he moved to the UK in September 2020.

‌Brentford have been one of the most effective and innovative teams at set-pieces for some time, while Aston Villa have a set-piece specialist and Nottingham Forest employed one at the end of last year.

‌Chelsea’s creation of a set-piece department is part of a number of performance-related changes that were first put forward during a club review last summer.

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