Mauricio Pochettino is understood to have agreed a deal to take over at Chelsea next season, with the club’s new head coach set to inherit a bloated squad which boasts talent but lacks direction.
Chelsea are unable to secure European football for next season and the numbers will need to be reduced ahead of next season. Significant sales are expected following the record-breaking spend of the past two transfers, an investment that has brought in an influx of players but with no clear strategy.
Pochettino’s task will be to assess the wreckage of a disastrous season in west London and mould his squad into a side capable of competing at the top end of the Premier League.
We’ve looked at five players Mauricio Pochettino can build his Chelsea team around.
Chelsea’s most expensive acquisition of their remarkable recruitment drive and the costliest signing in British football history.
Enzo Fernandez arrived at Stamford Bridge in January, having signed in a record-breaking £106m deal from Benfica. Fernandez’s move capped a rapid rise for the midfielder, who had signed for Benfica from River Plate for a fraction of that fee just six months earlier.
The 22-year-old had impressed across his opening months in the Primeira Liga, before announcing his arrival on the world stage in Qatar. Fernandez was named as the World Cup’s Best Young Player having had a central role in Argentina’s triumphant tournament in the Middle East.
🇦🇷 Enzo Fernandez has completed more successful through balls (9) and more accurate long balls (111) than any other Premier League player since his debut in February. Unbelievable player with so much more to come. #CFC #Chelsea pic.twitter.com/ykmDhypT1I
— Mozo Football (@MozoFootball) May 15, 2023
The World Cup winner has shown flashes of that quality during his first outings in Chelsea colours, despite a difficult period for the west Londoners. There have been clear signs of how Pochettino could revolve his team around the creative talents of his compatriot with Fernandez ranked second in the Premier League for average passes per game since arriving into English football.
Reece James has struggled for fitness during the current campaign and Chelsea will hope the right-back can return to his best level under Pochettino’s management.
James was one of Europe’s most effective wing-back options during the 2021/22 season, in which he scored five goals and laid on nine assists in just 22 league starts.
The England international averaged a goal involvement every 133 minutes in the Premier League last season, a return significantly more productive per minute than Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold (203 minutes) and Andy Robertson (195 minutes), with that duo often viewed as the benchmark for creativity from full-back.
James has been unable to replicate those performances this season due to continued fitness issues, but will be a central part of Chelsea’s rebuild under the new head coach. His energy, drive and delivery will be valued as Pochettino looks to build a team full of intensity and attacking threat.
Mykhailo Mudryk was another of Chelsea’s big-money acquisitions last winter and it’s fair to say the winger has had a challenging start to his career with the club.
Mudryk made his debut with an impressive cameo off the bench at Liverpool, but has since struggled to make an impact and looks short on confidence.
A constant threat on debut! ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/Q1z4ZCxgcf
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 22, 2023
The 22-year-old exploded on the European scene with a run of impressive performances in the Champions League earlier this season, sparkling during Shakhtar Donetsk’s group stage campaign to earn his £88.5m move to the Premier League.
He has failed to score in 13 league appearances for Chelsea, of which only six have come from the start, and has provided just two assists. His decision-making in the final third has been criticised, but Pochettino will be excited to work with a talent blessed with the raw attributes of lightning speed and nimble footwork to trouble defenders.
Mudryk’s pace will continue to get him opportunities if utilised in the right manner and Pochettino’s task will be to harness the best of the Ukrainian and turn him into an option that can deliver consistently. There’s no doubt a player in Mudryk and turning around his fortunes at Chelsea is a challenge Pochettino will relish.
Levi Colwill is expected to return and take his place in the Chelsea squad next season, following an impressive first season at Premier League level on loan at Brighton.
Colwill has shone as part of Roberto De Zerbi’s exciting side on the south coast and is in contention for a maiden England call-up ahead of June’s international fixtures.
The left-sided centre-back is composure personified and boasts a fine passing range from deep, with Colwill comfortable spreading the ball with long switches or threading passes at pace between opposition lines.
— Levi Colwill (@levi_colwill) May 14, 2023
Chelsea signed Benoit Badiashile from Monaco during the January transfer window and the centre-back has settled well at Stamford Bridge, but there’s an argument that Colwill is the most exciting of the Blues’ defensive options and boasts the highest ceiling.
Chelsea’s academy system has produced no shortage of top talents in recent years and the 20-year-old could be another graduate to cement his place in the senior side.
Chelsea have not formally announced the signing of Christopher Nkunku from RB Leipzig, but the deal is understood to be finalised and the forward will move to the Premier League this summer.
Chelsea’s addition of Nkunku appears a major coup following his progress at Leipzig in recent seasons, with the 24-year-old named as the Bundesliga’s Player of the Season in 2021/22 after scoring 20 goals and providing a further 13 assists.
Injuries have prevented Nkunku from scaling those same heights this time around, but he has produced another respectable return with 25 G/A in 26 starts in all competitions. He will improve the options of a Chelsea side that has lacked firepower this season, with only three teams – Wolves, Everton and Southampton – having scored less than the west Londoners in the Premier League.
Christopher Nkunku deal, signed and sealed — here we go now confirmed. All documents and contracts are also signed, it’s 100% closed. 🔵🤝🏻 #CFC
French striker can be considered new Chelses player, starting from July 2023. It’s all signed/sealed with RB Leipzig and player side. pic.twitter.com/u0gOytyM4U
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) December 17, 2022
Nkunku’s industry, versatility and goal threat will all be valued by Pochettino and he appears an ideal addition to build around as Chelsea look to bounce back next season.
Excellent in tight areas and capable of making and taking chances, it will be hoped Nkunku can succeed where a series of high-profile attacking additions have underwhelmed in recent campaigns.