Big challenge: Mauricio Pochettino has more than one problem to solve for Chelsea, As Chelsea favourite faces ban ahead of Tottenham
Mauricio Pochettino has more than one problem to solve for Chelsea as a key run of games creeps up on the horizon. After a run of four matches without defeat, the best period for nearly eight months, the Blues came crashing back to Earth with a 2-0 loss to Brentford.
With Tottenham on the agenda next in the Premier League and only Championship side Blackburn in the Carabao Cup to come before that, there is not much time to feel sorry at Stamford Bridge. In fact, even the trip to table-topping Tottenham might come as a relief with Pochettino winning just one of his first six home league games, losing three.
Chelsea have gone goalless at SW6 three times already this season as well and only have a win over Luton Town to show for their work. Away from home things haven’t gone too much better but victories at Burnley and Fulham prior to the last international break had stemmed the tide of poor results.
To go with this there are questions over the fitness of some key players once more with both Mykhailo Mudryk and Enzo Fernandez left out of the matchday squad on Saturday. Not only did this mean that the starting XI was down two regulars, the bench was also much weaker than usual and Pochettino could only turn to teenage striker Deivid Washington, natural defender Ian Maatsen and inexperienced, defence-minded midfielder Lesley Ugochukwu.
Reece James also made an appearance but is not yet ready to play playing from the off, something that many will hope can change in the build up to the trip to north London. The Argentine head coach will also have to deal without his trusted assistant manager for the coming week.
Jesus Perez, who has been with Pochettino throughout his managerial career, is the right-hand man on the touchline and in training, was sent off against Brentford and will now be out in the build-up to the Spurs match. Although his straight red on the sideline will see him return for the match against his former club, Pochettino will be one man down from his usual team against Blackburn.
It was evidence of just how frustrated Chelsea and the coaching team became against the Bees that Perez, often a figure seen in the shadows, saw himself front and centre of an incident here. When asked about his assistant Pochettino explained: “Yeah, because in the rules, he cannot go to the. [fourth official]….we apologise to Brentford and apologise to the referee because he wanted to take the ball in front of Brentford. Nothing more than this.”
When asked if he had to retrain his number two from the Brentford staff he said: “It’s normal, they say ‘what are you doing here?’, ‘I want to take the ball’. That’s it. Nothing more.” Perez also wasn’t in the press conference despite usually acting as translator.
As per new regulations that requires managers to not take part in post-match media duty after being sent off, Pochettino added: “I think the rule is to be banned [press officer adding that the club are unsure]. I think it is better to stay away.”
There will still be plenty of voices around Pochettino with Miguel D’Agostino and Toni Jimenez amongst those that form the backroom staff, but, as they say, when it’s going against it is really going against you and the manager may well feel that this is an extra sting in the tail.
Luckily there will be a return to the sideline for the Premier League clash that comes after cup action in midweek and Perez will be back. Unlike for players, who will more often see two-game bans for straight red cards, the manager suspension is not deemed as violent conduct.
It was only last season that Thomas Tuchel saw himself sent off against Spurs, incidentally, and the former Blues manager was only banned for one game on the occasion