Why Mauricio Pochettino will have a tough decision to make next season with Chelsea stars Bashir Humphreys and Reece James
Mauricio Pochettino has learnt he might have a secret weapon he’ll be able to unleash as he prepares his Chelsea side for their clash against London rivals Arsenal at Stamford Bridge next week. The Blues head into the international break 11th in the Premier League, but have started to find their feet under the Argentinian, who has led them to three straight wins in all competitions.
It’s been a period of growing pains for the club in recent months, but a 1-0 win in the Carabao Cup over Brighton, followed by 2-0 and 4-1 wins over Fulham and Burnley, seems to have truly kickstarted their season. The wins have come in the midst of a serious injury problem that has swept over the club during Pochettino’s reign however, with the likes of captain Reece James and vice-captain Ben Chilwell both having to sit out on the sidelines for prolonged periods.
Having only played 75 minutes of football this season, James might be set for an imminent comeback however following the international break when the Blues host Arsenal later this month. The star served a one-match ban after being found guilty of abusing an official in the 1-0 loss to Aston Villa which ruled him out of the 4-1 win at Turf Moor.
Now it’s up to Pochettino about how he wants to reintroduce the star and given his history with injuries and susceptibility to reaggravation, it might be worth erring on the side of caution. With that in mind, his replacement Malo Gusto hasn’t been without his worries either this season, with the French international having already been suspended for a red card against Villa and suffered an injury scare in the previous international break in September.
However, young Blues loanee Bashir Humphreys could provide an answer for Pochettino, who has impressed in the short time he’s been with Swansea City this season. The 20-year-old has already made two appearances for the Blues, including a full performance against AFC Wimbledon in the Carabao Cup back in August where he slotted in seamlessly at right-back.
Since then, he’s moved on loan to the Championship side where he’s started every game he’s been available for at centre-back and, with Swansea conceding just three goals in the five matches he’s played, has managed to excite those over the Welsh border. His introduction has seen them rise up the Championship to 12th after a torrid first four matches, and they are now unbeaten in their last five league games, winning the last four.
The turnaround has also seen the youngster handed an average match rating of 7.20, making him the highest-rated young defender across the entire league. He also found his first senior goal last week when he volleyed in a late winner against Norwich to seal a 2-1 win and all three points. After the match he couldn’t hide his delight, saying: “It’s an unbelievable feeling! I can’t even describe it.
“The ball was bouncing around, Jamal (Lowe) was telling me afterwards that he had two slices at it, but then it’s just landed at my feet and my eyes lit up. I just through, ‘I’m smashing this!
“It was an unbelievable feeling to get the goal, and obviously to get the win and keep the momentum going that’s even better – that’s the best part of it. I think momentum is so important in football, especially in the Championship, you can go on a good run and you go up the table quickly.
“We knew Norwich were going to be good and they showed that, they had a lot of good attacking threats and good players all around the pitch. I think it was a really powerful victory and it’s nice to do it home.
“The fans got us through it. This was my first time playing at home so I love playing at home, away wins are good, but winning in front of your fans is the best feeling you can get.”
After his fantastic performances so far, Blues supporters will be hoping to see more of Humphreys when he returns to Stamford Bridge at the end of the season. Pochettino has previously been working with the 20-year-old one-to-one, with the star admitting that he’s been picking at him for more information.
Back in Chelsea’s preseason tour, Humphreys said: “He’s just been helping me, giving me little details, telling me he’s happy with me so I’m just going to keep working. We’ve been working a lot on tactics and our shape off the ball and defensively so I’ve been learning a lot and he was a centre-back in his playing days.”