The Myth Of Mauricio Pochettino Must Give Way To Reality At Chelsea

Pochettino has been seen as every big club's saviour. Now he must prove it
16:00, 30 May 2023

Sometimes the idea is more powerful than the reality. Take 2016’s superhero team-up movie Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice. The two biggest names in the DC Comics arsenal on-screen together for the first time, what could go wrong? A lot as it turned out. The film was a critical flop, baffling audiences with muddled storytelling and sending DC’s celluloid output into a tailspin that it is now relying on Michael Keaton’s return to the cowl to bail it out of. 

Like the idea of the Caped Crusader sharing the screen with the Man of Steel, Mauricio Pochettino has been a powerful notion in recent years. His name has been invoked without fail whenever a Premier League side with title aspirations has parted ways with their manager. So strong is the pull of “Poch” that sometimes a club hasn’t needed to sack their manager for his candidacy to be broached. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and almost every Tottenham Hotspur manager of recent times can attest to that.


Pochettino has been treated as a certainty in conversations surrounding moves to other clubs. A manager who would make any team not only contenders but champions merely by nature of his appointment. Considering he has only lifted a league title once, with a team that had won it eight times in the last ten years, it is a strange conclusion to draw.

This is not to disparage the fine job Pochettino has done at several clubs. Southampton were transformed under his leadership from relegation fodder to a top half side. Spurs reached their first ever Champions League final and solidified themselves as part of the Premier League elite. Even Espanyol were on a promising trajectory, as Pochettino’s style began to take hold at the RCDE Stadium. 

But one thing the Argentine manager has never done is guaranteed trophies. This cup-lifting serial winner that people touted as a better choice than Erik ten Hag at Old Trafford was ultimately fictional. “Pochettino, he’ll win you the league” was a phrase weary Spurs fans were told as his successors flopped. But if he hadn’t won the league in his five years at the club, why was him doing it on returning such a certainty?


Ultimately, absence made the myth of Pochettino more powerful. A superb manager who carried Spurs to new heights was himself elevated to a new plateau. Touted as the key ingredient for trophy success at whichever club got to him first. Even as he was doing the bare minimum at PSG, coming no closer to furthering their Champions League ambitions than any other manager at the club before or since. A Ligue 1 championship at Parc Des Princes is a prerequisite rather than a career-defining achievement.

That’s not to say Pochettino can’t lead a Premier League club to trophy glory. In fact, Chelsea’s owners are counting on it. But now is the time where the 51-year-old must justify his reputation. In the four years since he left north London, fans have been told that his return would bring instant success for whoever hired him. We know from Todd Boehly’s first year as Chelsea co-owner that anything less will see him dismissed quickly and without prejudice.

Either way, the talk surrounding Pochettino will shift. If he wins the league or a Champions League with Chelsea, he will make good on his potential as a serial winner. If his spell at Stamford Bridge ends trophyless, then it is hard to imagine his name being invoked any further as the solution to every top club’s problems. Whatever happens during the 2023/24 Premier league season, we’re going to find out an awful lot about Mauricio Pochettino.

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