FROM STAMFORD BRIDGE – Tuesday night had the potential to end in disaster for Chelsea and head coach Mauricio Pochettino. Entering the second leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final against Middlesbrough, they needed to overturn a one-goal deficit after a humiliating defeat by the mid-table Championship side a fortnight ago. With Chelsea positioned ninth in the Premier League, Pochettino, already facing some fan displeasure due to his Tottenham connections, would have been under scrutiny if they had been eliminated.
For nearly two decades, Chelsea epitomized a win-at-all-costs mentality on and off the pitch. The BlueCo regime that succeeded Roman Abramovich has managed to preserve that philosophy to some extent during their tenure in west London.
To prove to their fans that winning remains the top priority, Chelsea, especially after replacing Thomas Tuchel with first Graham Potter and then Pochettino, both lacking an extensive trophy collection, have a significant task ahead.
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Chelsea, known for defensive resilience, presented themselves as an impenetrable force in the past. However, Potter failed to establish such an identity, and Pochettino’s team displayed only occasional glimpses of their potential.
With a resounding 6-1 victory in the second leg, Chelsea secured a place in the Carabao Cup final and extended their unbeaten run at Stamford Bridge to nine matches. This achievement is noteworthy considering they won only seven matches after Tuchel’s departure last season, and such a fixture would have posed difficulties a year ago.
Pochettino, criticized at Spurs for the lack of silverware during his tenure, has a point to prove regarding winning trophies at Chelsea. The club’s recent demonstration of identity and aggressive play suggests a positive direction.
Pochettino, typically a calm figure on the touchline, displayed signs of pressure in Chelsea’s recent home games, especially against Boro. Despite initial concerns, Chelsea’s early goal set the tone for a dominant performance. Pochettino’s ability to nurture young talent and address squad issues has shown promise, though challenges persist.
The true test for Chelsea and Pochettino awaits at Wembley against either Fulham or, more likely, Premier League leaders Liverpool. Winning a trophy would elevate the youthful squad and redefine the perception of their divisive manager, offering a blueprint for success in the final.