Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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Chelsea’s manager search: Candidates to replace Mauricio Pochettino, turmoil under Todd Boehly, what’s next

You’ve heard this before — the Blues are looking for a new manager

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Despite his strong finish to the season, Mauricio Pochettino will leave Chelsea by mutual consent after leading the Blues to a sixth-place finish that will either see them take part in the Europa League or the Europa Conference League next season. Pochettino will depart after only 11 months leaving owner Todd Boehly to figure out who will oversee next season in what has become a tumultuous two years in charge of the London club. Pochettino is already the fifth manager to coach a game for Chelsea during the American’s time leading the club and he amassed a 26-11-14 record in all competitions.

After finishing 12th with only 44 points in the 2022-23 season, the Blues improved to a sixth-place finish with 63 points in 2023-24. Since Jan. 1, only Manchester City, Arsenal, and Liverpool collected more than Chelsea’s 35 points. Now linked to names such as Ipswich Town’s Kieran McKenna, Leicester City’s Enzo Maresca, Stuttgart’s Sebastian Hoeness, and Girona’s Michel, the Blues will need to move quickly to set a new foundation ahead of a critical summer.

The new manager may not have the freedom to remake Chelsea’s squad because of the financial concerns of the team. That’s why it makes sense that the managers currently linked have found success at clubs at the lower end of their respective leagues in spending. It would be a departure from the Chelsea way but when that way has seen the Blues miss out on Champions League for two consecutive seasons, it could be a welcome departure.

The turmoil at Chelsea

After appointing two managers who were supposed to oversee long-term rebuilds in Graham Potter and Pochettino, only to see both leave after a year or less, it’s hard to project what Chelsea’s goal is at the moment. While things seemed rough at the beginning of Pochettino’s tenure, once he got his attack into form, Nicolas Jackson and Cole Palmer were able to lead Chelsea to victories without getting to even see much of Christopher Nkunku on the pitch. After being signed during the summer, the French forward only made 13 appearances in all competitions due to injuries during the season.  

It’s a case of one step forward, two steps back for Chelsea as now they need to get this next manager right. Immense funds have been put into building the current squad and if things break correctly they could qualify for Champions League but that’s not enough to satisfy a club that between 2000 and 2021 collected 23 pieces of silverware. Just making it to competitions isn’t where Chelsea are expected to be, they should be winning competitions and without a Premier League title since 2017, it’s something that will fester the longer the Blues go without silverware.

They feel further away from accomplishing that goal than they did when Boehly took over the club and again are back to the drawing board around what the squad and hierarchy will look like.

Potential candidates

  • McKenna: One of the hottest names in management right now, the current Ipswich Town manager became the first coach to oversee back-to-back promotions from League One to the Premier League since 2012. He took over a struggling squad and turned it into a team that collected more than 180 points in two seasons while becoming the highest scorers in the Championship, keeping up with the recently relegated teams in the league. McKenna is also reportedly on Brighton’s list to replace Roberto De Zerbi and he should also be on Manchester United’s list if they decide to move on from Erik ten Hag, so Chelsea could be faced with competition for the 38-year-old manager.
  • Maresca: Spending time in Manchester City’s system as a U23 coach and assistant manager, Maresca has been groomed by Pep Guardiola but then put his skills to the test at Leicester City, leading the Foxes to the top of the Championship despite selling James Maddison and other players. While they did struggle at the beginning of 2024, Leicester City were able to collect 97 points, storming back to the Premier League.
  • Hoeness: Suprise finishers as the second-placed team in the Bundesliga, Stuttgart’s season has been nothing short of impressive, making it back to the Champions League for the first time since 2010. A once proud German team who won the Bundesliga in 2007, Hoeness was able to bring belief back to the stands as he built a system behind Serhou Guirassy that was tough to stop for defenses. Hoeness is another young candidate at only 42 but he has 130 matches of top-flight experience between Hoffenheim and Stuttgart which could make him the most likely manager on this list to fit what Chelsea need right now.
  • Michel: Making history with Girona by leading them to the Champions League, Michel has built an aggressive system to always be on the front foot. They took that and look set to finish third in La Liga while scoring the second most goals of any team behind only Real Madrid. Another manager linked to City Football Group, Michel also has extensive top-flight experience that can help Chelsea but the transition to the Premier League is a challenging one.

Can this work?

It’s a bit of a loaded question because if a few more things go Chelsea’s way this past season and they’re a Champions League side, we’re not having this conversion. But when managers aren’t given adequate time to put their systems into play, it could become tough to recruit players. Without silverware, the Chelsea name will begin to lose its luster and with financial restrictions, it will become tougher to pay over-the-top wages to acquire top talent. So while things could see Chelsea return to the top four next season, there’s also a world where the Blues enter Boxing Day looking for a new manager and considering the history that we’ve seen, I’ll be taking that bet.

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