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Pochettino is under pressure but sacking him would only prove Eghbali and Boehly have no project

The face of Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino on the LED screen at Wembley
The minimum target for Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino this season is to qualify for Europe - Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

There was a time when the Chelsea job was one of the most attractive in Europe. Managers would queue up to take charge of a squad full of talent and know-how, with the promise of millions to spend and a big pay-out whenever former owner Roman Abramovich had decided he had had enough.

Nobody had to kid themselves about projects or patience. The rules of engagement were clear and supporters could be confident that with each sacking would come another high-profile appointment. Life in the fast lane was exhilarating and guaranteed thrills and spills… and, of course, trophies.

It may be that those years of success under Abramovich become tainted if Chelsea are found to have broken rules and punished, but nobody can honestly argue that they did not know what they were getting into and supporters still demonstrate they have no regrets by singing the Russian’s name.

The fact Mauricio Pochettino, having lost the Carabao Cup final, is now facing a make-or-break run to the end of the season to keep hold of his job as head coach is pure Abramovich – but stripped of the trophies and the fun for the fans along the way.

Whether or not it was expressly said to him when he was appointed, the minimum target for Pochettino this season was to qualify for Europe, which adds significance to Wednesday night’s FA Cup tie against Leeds United and means Chelsea, currently 11th in the table, need to finish their Premier League season strongly.

Pochettino knows that he will face pressure if Chelsea fall short and can have no complaints that supporters, some of whom cannot get over his old Tottenham Hotspur allegiance, would find a mid-table finish deeply uninspiring.

But if co-owners Behdad Eghbali and Todd Boehly, advised by sporting directors Paul Winstanley and Laurence Stewart, sack their third manager since taking over, then all talk of projects, patience and philosophies may as well be chucked out of the window. All that will have changed since the Abramovich hire‘em, fire‘em days will be that there are no trophies to show for all the changes and the queue for the Chelsea job will be an awful lot shorter.

Chelsea owner Todd Boehly (left) and director Behdad Eghbali
Chelsea co-owners Todd Boehly (left) and Behdad Eghbali have spent over £1 billion on new signings since buying the club - Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

Liverpool and Bayern Munich are already far more attractive propositions than Chelsea would be, while Barcelona, for all their problems, should at least be able to offer Champions League football. They could pay the compensation fee to take yet another member of staff from Brighton, but it is unlikely Pochettino’s old friend Unai Emery would give up the control he enjoys at Aston Villa to put his neck on the line for Eghbali and Boehly.

An associate of a top coach who would almost certainly be linked with succeeding Pochettino were he to go the way of Thomas Tuchel and Graham Potter remarked: “Every manager will be in trouble with this team.”

Add the fact that just about everybody in football believes Chelsea are in danger of running into trouble over profit and sustainability rules, and the threat of punishment and a possible points deduction from the Abramovich era, then the prospect of succeeding Pochettino may not seem too good to turn down.

Eghbali and Boehly have spent over £1 billion on new signings since buying the club, but Chelsea will have tough choices to make in the future if the money tap is to keep running, as it did in the Abramovich days when financial fair play was much easier to circumnavigate.

Questionable judgment in the transfer market

Good luck to whoever the head coach is to send out a team in what could be a toxic Stamford Bridge if Conor Gallagher or even Reece James have to be sold to allow Chelsea to keep trading.

And who will pick the next big signing? The head coach? Unlikely. None of the players who disappeared in extra-time of the Carabao Cup final at Wembley were actually signed by Pochettino. It was back in the Potter days that Eghbali and Winstanley hopped on a private jet to clinch the £80 million signing of Mykhailo Mudryk, whose only contribution from the substitutes’ bench on Sunday was to allow Virgil van Dijk to head Liverpool’s winner.

Some Chelsea insiders had been predicting that Mudryk could be one of the players of the year when Pochettino arrived last summer, which raises questions over their judgment.

There have been good signings such as goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic, Cole Palmer and Malo Gusto, while it seems unfeasible that Moises Caicedo and Enzo Fernández will not improve. Whether Caicedo and Fernández are suited to playing together is an entirely different question.

Nicolas Jackson is a threat and should develop, but which top coach wants to trust the guys who spent £1 billion and failed to sign a recognised goalscorer with their reputation and future?

Managers were happy to be the fall-guy for Abramovich, knowing they would more than likely pick up a trophy or two to enhance their CVs along the way. His hired-gun approach also left no ambiguity over what needed to be achieved.

But which top coaches would want to have to ask the fans to trust the process on behalf of Eghbali and Boehly if they prove there really is no Chelsea project by sacking Pochettino? The answer is probably not as many as they might like to think.

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