Mauricio Pochettino’s Tactical Adjustments Prove His Worth as Chelsea Manager, Just as Injury Woes Begin to Subside

Mauricio Pochettino’s Tactical Adjustments Prove His Worth as Chelsea Manager, Just as Injury Woes Begin to Subside

There is a growing sense at Chelsea that Mauricio Pochettino deserves to stay in charge, with this comeback win over Nottingham Forest strengthening his hand before a summer summit with the club’s hierarchy.

It did not go unnoticed that Pochettino’s in-game tactical tweaks were crucial to this victory, changing the complexion of the contest with pro-active substitutions.

Chelsea’s manager has rarely had full use of his bench this season due to an injury crisis which has only relented for the run-in.

Pochettino’s future will ultimately be decided at an end-of-season review. Ahead of that sit-down, it is helping the Argentine’s case that he has shown what can be achieved when he has a complete arsenal to choose from, as was the case at a highly atmospheric City Ground on Saturday.

At half-time, Pochettino told Marc Cucurella to act as more of a traditional left back after seeing how his inverted role was not working. After 58 minutes, he brought on Christopher Nkunku and Malo Gusto — a double substitution which saw players switch positions on the pitch as Cole Palmer shifted over to the right wing and Trevoh Chalobah moved to centre back.

Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino has got his team firing during the end-of-season run-in

Chelsea are in a strong position to qualify for a place in European competition next season

Chelsea are in a strong position to qualify for a place in European competition next season

Chelsea¿s manager has rarely had full use of his bench this season due to an injury crisis which has only relented for the run-in as Reece James (pictured) returned against Nottingham Forest

Chelsea’s manager has rarely had full use of his bench this season due to an injury crisis which has only relented for the run-in as Reece James (pictured) returned against Nottingham Forest

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After 73, Pochettino introduced Raheem Sterling, who went on to equalise by cutting inside from the left wing. After 79, Reece James was brought on and secured an assist within three minutes of his first appearance since December as Nicolas Jackson headed home the dramatic winner.

Pochettino wants to stay and is likely to cite the data when he sits down with the sporting directors, Paul Winstanley and Laurence Stewart, and potentially the co-owners Behdad Eghbali, Todd Boehly and Jose E Feliciano. 

He has long argued that the numbers say Chelsea are competing like a top-four team, and since Boxing Day, only Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool have picked up more points.

European football is set to be key to him being afforded a reprieve and on that, Pochettino said: ‘It should be good, really good, to finish in Europe. It would be important for the club, the players, for everyone. To finish strongly in this way is going to be very good for the club to start next season.’

Asked if he could feel smug about this victory, given how his changes orchestrated it, Pochettino added: ‘When you are a coach, you need to take decisions. It is to decide things that can be positive or negative. When they are positive, we are so happy. When they are negative, you blame yourself.

‘This was good because I had players on the bench who could make an impact. It increases the competition for the starting XI. That is what we need if we are to be better next season.’

Chelsea striker Nicolas Jackson is one of the players that have thrived under Pochettino's guidance

Chelsea striker Nicolas Jackson is one of the players that have thrived under Pochettino’s guidance

Pochettino wants to stay and is likely to cite the recent data when he sits down to discuss his future at the end of the season

Chelsea co-owner Todd Boehly (pictured) is set to decide on Pochettino's future at the club

Chelsea co-owner Todd Boehly (pictured) is set to decide on Pochettino’s future at the club

As previously reported by Mail Sport, Pochettino has the backing of the players, the majority of whom do not want to see him sacked. Several have improved as the season has progressed, with Moises Caicedo among those now showing why he was signed for such a whopping fee. His first-time pass into James in the build-up to Jackson’s winner was as crucial as an assist.

Pochettino’s players deserve credit for not giving up at the City Ground, considering they fell 2-1 down after 74 minutes with Callum Hudson-Odoi — the winger they sold last summer for just £3million plus £2m in add-ons — scoring that curler into the corner. Earlier this season, Chelsea might have accepted defeat, but here, they rallied.

Forest are as good as safe despite this defeat, given Luton would need to reverse a 12-goal swing on the final day.

But their survival party was spoiled here by a revitalised Chelsea side who are looking more likely than unlikely to be managed by Pochettino next season if they can confirm their place in Europe.

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