Chelsea: Mauricio Pochettino in race against time over squad cull as urgent talks loom
Mauricio Pochettino will immediately start planning for next season once he arrives at Chelsea.
Time is of the essence for the incoming head coach, who flew into London this week and is, as of Friday, finalising his appointment on a three-year contract.
Chelsea are in a race to sell players before June 30 so the sales can be included in their financial accounts for 2022-23, and Pochettino must quickly decide who he wants to keep.
He has just a week to hold individual talks with players before they head off on their summer break after the final game of the season, at home against Newcastle next Sunday.
It is crucial Chelsea make quick decisions to give themselves maximum time to find buyers for unwanted players before the deadline, as the club bids to ensure it stays in line with Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules.
Pre-season training is not due to start until the first week in July, so Pochettino will not get the luxury of studying the squad at close quarters before he oversees a mass clear-out.
The Argentine is set to hold talks with interim manager Frank Lampard, who will make himself available as a sounding board, but will need to make some ruthless calls.
Pochettino sees Mason Mount, whose future remains in doubt, as a key part of his rebuild. Mount is out of contract at the end of next season and is not close to agreeing an extension after talks with the club’s co-owner Todd Boehly showed no sign of a breakthrough.
Pochettino will ask Chelsea to restart negotiations with the 24-year-old, who wants a deal that brings him closer in line with other senior members in the squad. It remains to be seen if he can be convinced to stay amid interest from Liverpool. N’Golo Kante is still yet to agree a new contact and his future is also unclear.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mateo Kovacic, Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech, Edouard Mendy, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are all set to be cleared to leave, as Pochettino looks to streamline the squad.
He will be backed in that cull by co-sporting directors Paul Winstanley and Laurence Stewart, who interviewed him for the job. Pochettino, Winstanley and Stewart also face urgent discussions over transfer targets, as Chelsea prioritise bringing in a striker and a goalkeeper this summer.
Pochettino will need to make ruthless calls and faces urgent talks over transfer targets
Romelu Lukaku’s participation with Inter Milan in the Champions League final will delay talks over his Chelsea future. Pochettino is open to working with Lukaku.
It will not be long before Pochettino moves into his office at Chelsea’s Cobham training ground. The former Tottenham manager likes to keep a tray of lemons in his office, after a friend told him they absorb negative energy.
Positive energy could be crucial when he whips the Chelsea players into shape in what will be a gruelling pre-season schedule.
The squad is set be split into two or three groups, and an exhausting fitness programme will be led by his assistant Jesus Perez, who is also his head of conditioning.
Pochettino will also be joined by coach Miguel D’Agostino, goalkeeping coach Toni Jimenez and his son Sebastiano, a sports scientist who will also have a key role.
Pochettino is not expected to be at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, when Chelsea play Manchester City, but the hard work starts now.