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'Maybe not a turning point, but a blueprint for a cohesive team'

Ben Chilwell celebrates with Enzo Fernandez
Ben Chilwell celebrates with Enzo Fernandez

I have written several 'Is this the turning point?' pieces this season, the latest of which came after Chelsea beat Middlesbrough 6-0 to reach the Carabao Cup final.

It wasn't.

Mauricio Pochettino's men then drew 0-0 against Aston Villa, lost 4-1 at Anfield and were humbled 4-2 at home by Wolves.

Neither was the 2-2 draw with Arsenal in October, the 4-1 win at Spurs and 4-4 draw with Manchester City in November, or the Carabao Cup quarter-final win over Newcastle in December.

But, in his pre-match news conference before the 3-1 win at Villa - a latest potential turning point in a season of false dawns - Pochettino's words were strong.

"I tell players in meetings I trust them more than ever - I will support you more than ever," he said. "We are going to face this moment knowing we can bounce back and win games."

And bounce back they did. The words exchanged in those meetings manifested in a show of togetherness - the performance of Pochettino's era so far.

With senior figures Raheem Sterling and Thiago Silva dropped, Noni Madueke backed to impress and Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo closer together, they they looked far more effective.

Pochettino also deployed Benoit Badiashille and Axel Disasi in central defence - a partnership that played more than 50 times together with Monaco. Both looked more comfortable alongside one another than they ever have on their own.

Nicolas Jackson and Madueke looked assured on the wings offensively and defensively, Caicedo flourished alongside Fernandez with Conor Gallagher impressing in his more advanced role.

With Malo Gusto and Ben Chilwell playing orthodox full-back roles, this was a structured and organised side that we have not seen this season.

Injuries have been unkind to Pochettino but this XI, with an average age of 22.8, understood their roles and the gameplan. At Villa Park, where the home team have been supreme, this performance was grown up. Mature.

Maybe it is less of a turning point, and more the blueprint on turning talented individuals into a cohesive team.

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