Chelsea look at set-piece coaches despite Mauricio Pochettino scepticism as he says: ‘I know my place’

Noni Madueke of Chelsea takes a corner kick
Chelsea's set-piece department is being created following a club-wide review - Getty Images/Darren Walsh

Chelsea are set to recruit specialist coaches to work in a new dedicated set-piece department, despite head coach Mauricio Pochettino dismissing their importance only a month ago.

Pochettino insisted he has a “very good relationship” with Chelsea’s owners and sporting directors, but appears to have accepted that he will never be in charge of decision-making at Stamford Bridge.

Whether that impacts his future in the short or long term remains to be seen, but Chelsea claim Pochettino has been involved in the creation of a set-piece department, in spite of his apparent scepticism.

Other than the club pushing on with plans to appoint set-piece coaches to work in a new club-wide department, it is co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali, together with sporting directors Paul Winstanley and Laurence Stewart, who will have the final say over Conor Gallagher’s future.

Speaking about Gallagher, who scored the winning goal in the crucial FA Cup victory over Leeds United and is yet to agree a new contract, Pochettino said: “It’s only between the club and Conor that can make the deal. I am the coach that needs to be in my place. I cannot say nothing.”

Given the chance to explain what he meant, Pochettino repeated “I know my place” before replying “no comment” to two questions on whether or not he felt managers should be in control of their squad.

Asked why he would not comment, Pochettino said: “Because there is nothing to win for me. What am I going to say? I am the head coach. My job is to coach the team and to pick the decisions for tomorrow [against Brentford], for the starting 11 and squad, and try to improve the players and try to win games. That is my job.

“We have a very good relationship with the owners and sporting directors. My office is always open and we have a very good relationship and dialogue. We are open to help in the way they think or believe we can help.”

Conor Gallagher gestures during the FA Cup win over Leeds
Conor Gallagher has been in superb form for Chelsea this season but his future at the club remains in doubt - Getty Images/Darren Walsh

Pochettino declared that “football belongs to the players, not to the specialists” and insisted his existing coaching staff was capable of working on set-pieces when asked about the subject at the start of February.

Chelsea’s set-piece department will operate across the club, rather than focusing solely on Pochettino’s first team, and is being created following a review that took place last summer.

The club decided on a number of changes to the medical department and other areas relating to performance, which included creating a set-piece department.

Telegraph Sport understands that Chelsea have already sounded out candidates to work within the new department and there is a possibility that more than one set-piece specialist coach will be appointed.

How closely any new set-piece coaches would work with Pochettino is yet to be confirmed, given he has always worked with his close-knit staff of Jesus Perez, son Sebastiano, Miguel d’Agostino and Toni Jimenez, the goalkeeping coach.

Chelsea tried to integrate Bruno Saltor, who arrived at the club with Graham Potter, into Pochettino’s staff but the 43-year-old, who managed one game last season, soon left the club.

Bruno Saltor
Bruno Saltor left soon after Mauricio Pochettino arrived - PA/John Walton

Arsenal recruited a set-piece specialist from Manchester City, while Nottingham Forest hired their first-ever set-piece coach in December and Aston Villa are also among the clubs that use one.

But Pochettino dismissed the idea ahead of Chelsea’s home defeat by Wolves, instead suggesting that he and his staff were looking at potentially signing a player who is particularly strong at taking set-pieces during the summer.

“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.”

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