Five Chelsea players whose future looks (even) bleak(er) under Mauricio Pochettino

Dave Tickner
Azpilicueta talks about player welfare in fixture scheduling

We picked out five Chelsea players who should be delighted to discover Mauricio Pochettino is their new manager, so it’s only right and proper that we pick out five names left holding the sh*tty end of that particular stick.

Trickier, it must be said, because of Pochettino’s ability to work with what he has and improve players. He could mug us right off with any or all of these five, but on balance of probabilities we’d say these guys have the toughest job on their hands…

The inverse feature is here, if you want to have a read of that first/afterwards. Entirely up to you.


Romelu Lukaku
A new manager with a reputation for giving players a chance to stake their claim could actually be a dreadful thing for Lukaku, who might find himself in the Chelsea squad next season whether he likes it or not. And it’s pretty clear now that his answer would be ‘not’.

But casting Lukaku out entirely is a big financial decision that is unlikely to be taken on with a new manager – especially a Poch-type – in position.

The issue with all of these is that Pochettino’s ability at Southampton and especially Spurs to turn the unlikeliest of players into gold means that we’re working only on balance of probabilities. Lukaku could be a very Pochettino striker indeed and finally deliver the results for Chelsea he’s delivered elsewhere. In which case everybody is annoyed, so it still kind of works.


Marc Cucurella
We’re nervous here because there’s probably about a 50-50 chance that what actually happens is, after another infuriating injury setback for Ben Chilwell in early September – on international duty for full bonus points – Cucurella is swiftly turned into the Premier League’s best left-back and a place on every ‘most improved’ or ‘surprise package’ feature of the season.

But if Chilwell stays fit (yes, ‘if’, we know) Cucurella looks in serious trouble and there are already reports the former Brighton man’s name might be on the very, very long clear-out list. Pochettino’s system is not one that offers an easy way for both to be in the same team. There’s no third centre-back, there’s no left midfielder, we don’t see either Cucurella or Chilwell as a left-forward in anything other than absolute extremis and with no European football next season there aren’t going to be a lot of chances for those on the outside looking in. And Chilwell is just such a Pochettino left-back…

Cucurella Chelsea

Cesar Azpilicueta
Has had quite the 11 years at Chelsea, making over 500 appearances for the club and winning the lot, from the FIFA World Club Cup to the League Cup via the Champions League, two Europa Leagues and a couple of Premier League winner’s medals.

Still has a year on his contract and after the scale of his contribution to Chelsea’s success over the last decade, he doesn’t really deserve it to end on this of all seasons, but… yeah, it probably will.

Plenty of reports suggest he’ll be available this summer and it’s pretty easy to see why. At 33 he’s unlikely to be able to do the job required of a Pochettino full-back, and the versatility that has made him so very useful to a series of Chelsea managers doesn’t really look as useful for a Pochettino side. There’s no third centre-back, and for multiple reasons he certainly won’t be playing wing-back.

It’s undeniably a shame for it to end this way, but better that than as a 34-year-old spare part. In a statistical quirk, Azpilicueta has played 349 games in the Premier League and 99 games in La Liga. So if he does leave, it’s suddenly of great importance to us that it not be to anyone in either of those leagues.


Kai Havertz
A tentative one because it’s another that could go either way, but on balance we reckon more likely to be sold for a pretty penny than become an integral part of Pochettino’s plan. Either way there will surely be no more cosplaying as a centre-forward.

Harsh to judge him to much on a season where Chelsea have been so very wretched, but his has been a significantly wretched showing. Of his seven Premier League goals, only one came against a top-half team and that was in a 4-1 defeat at Brighton. Has in any case shown only glimpses in what is now a pretty sizeable Premier League career to suggest he has enough of anything to become a tip-top Pochettino AM. There’s not the creative vision of a Christian Eriksen, the precocious chaotic genius of a young Dele Alli, the goals and mischief of a Son Heung-min or the shithousing of an Erik Lamela.


Hakim Ziyech
It probably didn’t much matter who the new manager was; Ziyech was already done for. It’s just never really worked out for him at Chelsea or in the Premier League and that’s a shame for a player who was such a particularly fun component of that particularly fun Ajax side a few years back.

Still has two years left on his Chelsea contract but surely features somewhere near the top of the Blues’ long and desperate list of players to be sold for both financial and pure space-at-the-training-ground logistical reasons.