Mauricio Pochettino

Chelsea set for strong 2024/25 Premier League season under Mauricio Pochettino's guidance

Chelsea are sixth. They’ve won four games in a row. In 2024 only the top three have won more points than their 38.

They could still finish above Tottenham. There’s a pretty good chance they will finish within a mere five points of Aston Villa.

It’s left a lot of people wondering how, and when, this seemingly hapless Chelsea side suddenly got good.

None of this should come as a surprise. Mauricio Pochettino remains under pressure, presumably because his wobbly start and some wayward low-confidence football through early winter stuck in the memory.

But that really isn’t the story of his transitional season at Stamford Bridge, or at least it shouldn’t be.

Noni Madueke (centre): Chelsea attacker is congratulated by Cole Palmer (right) and Nicolas Jackson after scoring v West Ham

From the outset Pochettino had this ragtag bunch playing his style of football, albeit in glimpses and with obvious problems at both ends. Yet between the boxes we have seen a hard-pressing, coherent, and vertically-minded attacking team come together.

Considering the constant chaos of the Todd Boehly era, it is a genuinely superb feat.

This might sound like a lunatic conclusion to draw, but it’s true.

Chelsea’s defence has been error-prone and deeply fragile due to a combination of injuries and a transfer policy overly focused on youth, while their attack has been let down by profligate finishing.

But everything else has been falling into place since August.

Chelsea's rank vs other teams

Yes, really. Opta’s ‘expected points’ table, which uses xG to simulate each match 10,000 times to create a league table based on chance quality, has had Chelsea 4th or 5th consistently since the very beginning.

The latest table has them fourth on 62.78 points.

And the underlying numbers back this up.

On pretty much every metric relating to Pochettino’s Bielsa-inspired tactics of high pressing and straight-lined possession Chelsea are right up there: top for through balls (111); second for attempted take-ons (830) and third for successful take-ons (379); fourth for progressive carries (846); and third for PPDA (10.6).

Conor Gallagher, Moises Caicedo, and Enzo Fernandez have forged a strong partnership in central midfield and Chelsea’s distribution from back to front, along with their out-of-possession shape, has a stability that you wouldn’t expect to see in Pochettino’s first year considering the bloated squad and complicated environment he inherited.

Chelsea's Conor Gallagher and Mauricio Pochettino
Chelsea's Conor Gallagher and Mauricio Pochettino

Results haven’t reflected this (not until recently at least) because of defensive errors and poor finishing. It’s as simple as that, and on both counts Chelsea are set to be much better next season.

Only three teams have fielded more different combinations of back fours than Chelsea’s 21, reflecting the injury crisis that has forced Pochettino into the kind of trial-and-error approach that inevitably leads to a disconnected back line full of mistakes.

But with Wesley Fofana and Benoit Badiashile coming back next season there will be more stability in the near future.

Up front, their goalscoring issues are already behind him. As recently as February Chelsea had under-hit their xG by 7.8 goals, the second worst in the division behind Everton, but now they have actually over-hit their xG by 0.7, thanks to Jackson’s improvements (he has four goals in four, and looks more composed with each game) and a natural progression back to the mean.

Nicolas Jackson's shot map

Christopher Nkunku’s return from injury is another game-changer. He scored 36 goals in 59 matches for RB Leipzig during his last two years in the Bundesliga and is one of Europe’s most exciting footballers.

His goal in midweek was a reminder of that.

If that wasn’t reason enough to believe their goalscoring problems are gone, then how about this: Chelsea will have actual Pochettino-style full-backs from the beginning of next season.

In his ultra-narrow 4-2-3-1 flying full-backs play an essential role by adding attacking width that stretches defences from side to side, hence the prominence of Kyle Walker and Danny Rose playing diagonals to each other in his Tottenham team.

Reece James’ match-winning assist last weekend may well be a sign of things to come, while on the left Ian Maatsen is set to return from a successful loan spell at Borussia Dortmund as a seasoned Champions League finalist and tailor-made Pochettino full-back.

Chelsea's average positions

That ought to complete the first 11, and with a second summer learning Pochettino’s tactics plus transfer activity to prune and perfect the squad, it all adds up to a 2024/25 season that Chelsea supporters can get excited about.

For those watching closely, the evidence has been there from the very beginning, and as results finally start to match performances there is no longer any doubt that Pochettino has made good use of his first year in charge.

Chelsea came 12th last year and began 2023/24 with an injury crisis that never relented, so to finish top six - and overhaul the entire tactical approach in the process - amounts to a successful campaign.

The only question is whether Todd Boehly knows enough about football to see beneath the surface level. Stay the course and Chelsea are onto something.

But stability isn’t how this club tend to do things.

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