Zola gives verdict on Mauricio Pochettino as he highlights Chelsea major problem

Gianfranco Zola gives verdict on Mauricio Pochettino as he highlights Chelsea major problem

Gianfranco Zola has bemoaned the lack of leaders in the current Chelsea squad while insisting he still believes Mauricio Pochettino was the right appointment at Stamford Bridge.

Pochettino’s first season in west London has yielded disappointing results, with the Blues slipping into the bottom-half of the Premier League.

Chelsea did reach the League Cup final where they were beaten by Liverpool and could yet lift the FA Cup trophy, though they face the unenviable task of meeting Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in the semi-finals.

Zola believes Pochettino was the ‘best choice’ for the job given his impressive work with young players at Southampton and Tottenham and the current age profile of the Chelsea squad.

The Blues hero admits he ‘did not expect’ Chelsea to struggle so badly this season but is backing Pochettino to turn things around.

‘When Pochettino was appointed as manager, I thought he was the best option for the task,’ Zola said on the Up Front podcast.

‘We had a project to bring in young talent, and to develop them, and I believe to do that job, Pochettino is the best man for it.

‘Obviously at the time, I didn’t expect all the difficulties they seem to be going through at the moment. But I still believe he’s a strong coach.’

One issue for Pochettino, according to Zola at least, is the lack of leaders in the Stamford Bridge squad.

Chelsea have spent over £1billion on new signings under Todd Boehly but almost all of that cash has gone on young, emerging talent.

As a result Chelsea have fielded the youngest squad in the Premier League this season – the average age of the 30-player group is less than 24.

‘The policy at the club in recent years has been to spend big money,’ added Zola, who spent seven years at Chelsea as a player before being part of Maurizio Sarri’s coaching staff at Stamford Bridge.

‘They used to have a core team of four or five players with the likes of Frank Lampard, John Terry, Didier Drogba and Branislav Ivanovic, and Chelsea would build their team around those players.

‘Those players had the knowledge, the experience, the character and the personality which all combined with the know-how of how to be a successful team and be winners.

‘Those players were the ones to spread those fundamental traits to the new players within the team, as well as many of the players who came up through the ranks in the youth team. Because they were in that environment with those core players, they could develop those attributes and abilities.

‘Some of Chelsea’s young players seem a bit intimidated because there’s a lot of pressure to play for this club.

‘Some of the players, even if they have good ability, they are still developing and they aren’t ready, they need more time. But at Chelsea it’s difficult because you need to get top four otherwise it’s a failure.’

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