Pochettino ‘always wins’ crossbar challenge vs Mudryk as Chelsea boss attempts ‘belief’ boost

Will Ford
Mykhaylo Mudryk Chelsea
Mykhaylo Mudryk has struggled since his big-money move to Chelsea in January.

Mauricio Pochettino says Mykhaylo Mudryk doesn’t want to play crossbar challenge with him as he “always wins”, but the Chelsea boss explains how he’s using the game as a teaching tool.

Mudryk joined Chelsea from Shakhtar Donetsk in January in a deal which could be worth up to £89m, but has picked up just two assists and no goals in 22 appearances.

He has become emblematic of owner Todd Boehly’s failing project at Stamford Bridge, with Pochettino’s young, but very expensively assembled, side languishing in 14th in the Premier League.

Mudryk’s confidence appears to be as low as anyone’s at Stamford Bridge, and in a bid to lift the Ukraine international, Pochettino has been going head-to-head with him at the Cobham training ground.

“With Mudryk, I like to play sometimes to [hit] the crossbar from outside the box,” Pochettino revealed.

“He said to me, ‘I don’t want to play anymore with you because you always win.’ I said ‘yes, because I have the belief, and the balance between belief and quality I know very well because I’m 50 years old. You’re still young and you need to know yourself’.

“Today [Tuesday] was the first day we draw, because I always won. Now you start to believe in yourself, believe in your quality. If not, it’s difficult to balance belief and quality.”

Mudryk – who was close to joining Arsenal before Chelsea swooped to sign him in January – has featured in five of the Blues’ six Premier League games this season, starting the last two.

He’s failed to find the form that prompted Chelsea to sign him for big-money, though there have been fleeting moments where his talent has shone through, as is the case with many of the young players in the squad.

Speaking before Chelsea’s Carabao Cup third round tie against Brighton at Stamford Bridge, Pochettino said: “The problem is we can’t buy confidence at the supermarket.

“It’s about time. You know how our brains work – it’s about little by little, creating situations where we can provide the trust and the confidence and the belief.

“That is one aspect you work on, the psychology of the player, and that can make the difference to provide the players with confidence to touch the ball and score. It’s a small example.”