Chelsea receives a huge boost from manager Mauricio Pochettino

Chelsea receives a huge boost from manager Mauricio Pochettino

Chelsea may not be signing new players this month, something Mauricio Pochettino admitted was actually more of a blessing than it may seem, but that doesn’t mean that the squad will stay the same. The Blues have been dealing with a revolving door of available players for much of the season already and have been left to form new relationships across the season.

For Pochettino, it has been an undercurrent to the entire campaign but not one that has allowed him much in terms of leeway with supporters. Now, with the chance to get to a cup final in his first season on the line, there will be no excuses.

Despite the prospect that he is without Christopher Nkunku, Reece James, Romeo Lavia and Robert Sanchez – among others – for the Carabao Cup semi-final second-leg against Middlesbrough there is an expectation that Chelsea overturn the 1-0 deficit at Stamford Bridge. Given the reaction from supporters after the loss at the Riverside Stadium, and Pochettino once more making the point that missing chances is proving too costly for his side, many expected changes to be made.

However, with the potential threat of Premier League action for overspending and breaching financial rules, the transfer window has been unusually quiet. For Pochettino this isn’t a bad thing. “To be honest, no,” he said when asked if he would like to be on the phone to the sporting directors and owners discussing moves. “If [there is] no ring, [it is] much better for me.”

Even though major business isn’t likely at this stage – options are in short supply and the monetary optics do not appear positive – the chance for additions is still there. “I need to always be available 24 hours and to be in contact with the sporting director and the owners,” he said earlier this month. “Always something can appear.”

Regardless of not welcoming in new players, Pochettino will have a different group available to him. From the squad that started the month he has already seen three loanees return, though David Datro Fofana is now at Burnley so won’t be available. Cesare Casadei and Andrey Santos are available for selection, though.

The pair have come back in different circumstances but will need to be carefully managed. Due to transfer rules, if they are selected against Middlesbrough on Wednesday – as potential cover for Lesley Ugochukwu or Lavia in midfield – they will not be able to play for another side this season.

For Santos that might not be the worst outcome as he is set to join up with the pre-Olympics Brazil squad before the season is over. Casadei, though, is a more flexible option. He has come straight back into the first-team setup, presumably as a backup for the current options. It doesn’t bode well for Lavia or Ugochukwu and he is hardly a like-for-like stylistically, but it is at least another name available to Pochettino.

However, the real boost is to have both Carney Chukwuemeka and Ben Chilwell back. The pair have been out of action since October with injury and left a massive void in the side. After starting the first two games together as well as taking on key roles during pre-season, it is a step in the right direction.

Pochettino is yet to get the best out of either of them despite entering the year hopeful of effectively using them as new signings. With Chilwell missing a large chunk of last season as well and Chukwuemeka largely ignored by all managers, it was a fresh start for them.

That proved to be a false dawn – one in a season of false dawns for Chelsea – but Pochettino will now have two key first-team players back and energised to go again. It should add life, quality and options to the squad even if there are others that remain unavailable.

Often described as ‘new signings’ there is a literal sense that Casadei – yet to make his senior debut for the club, as is Santos – can act as fresh blood for the side. Chilwell himself is no stranger to being deemed a new signing upon one of his many returns from previous injury.

Chukwuemeka is one of the most exciting players available at the club too but is still simply an unknown quantity. Trevoh Chalobah is also on the verge of a return having not played this season through fitness problems. He is unlikely to make as big of a splash as the others but given the lack of experience in the squad every little really does help and, for Pochettino, it might have to be this sort of addition he relies on this month, not lavish new signings.

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