Talking Tactics

How Chelsea will benefit from Pochettino's attacking approach

By Adrian Clarke 29 May 2023

Adrian Clarke looks at how the Argentinian will seek to transform the Blues after his appointment as head coach

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Adrian Clarke analyses the impact that Chelsea's new head coach can have at Stamford Bridge.

Coach analysis - Mauricio Pochettino

If Chelsea’s star-studded squad buy in to Pochettino’s aggressive, attack-minded tactical approach in 2023/24, we should see a major upturn in performance levels.

Pochettino is regarded as a brilliant man-manager, but in turn he demands total focus and a big physical effort from his players.

His strict formula worked tremendously well during stints at Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur.

In 2013/14 Pochettino led Saints to their highest-ever Premier League points tally before joining Spurs, where he guided them to a top-four finish in each of his four full campaigns at the helm.

Spurs also finished second under Pochettino in 2016/17 with a club-record 86 points.

As an attacking force this has been a miserable campaign for Chelsea, with only four teams scoring fewer Premier League goals.

Pochettino wants to play on the front foot, so this will the priority area for him to address.

He will look to develop better cohesion and chemistry inside the final third, allowing partnerships to build within a more consistent starting XI. Part of that process will surely involve trimming the numbers in his squad.

Pochettino’s record at Spurs suggests he will be attack-minded.

While he benefited from the exploits of Harry Kane in north London, his Spurs teams always scored plenty of goals.

Pochettino's full seasons at Spurs
Season Goals PL rank Possession (%) PL rank
2015/16 69 2nd 57.3 3rd
2016/17 86 1st 60.5 3rd
2017/18 74 4th 62.1 2nd
2018/19 67 4 59.4 4th
Chelsea 2022/23 38 16th 59.4 5th
How will Pochettino’s Chelsea look?

Across his 202 Premier League matches in charge of Spurs, Pochettino used a 4-2-3-1 shape on 135 occasions.

While he is not averse to deploying a 4-3-3 or a 3-4-2-1, it is his preferred set-up and likely starting point at Stamford Bridge.

In that system, his full-backs are encouraged to push forward and take up high starting positions, with a deep-lying central midfielder dropping between the centre-backs to build attacks.

This would appear to be a natural fit for Reece James and Ben Chilwell out wide, and for record signing Enzo Fernandez, who likes to act as the team’s quarterback in possession.

Asking his full-backs to supply most of the width, Pochettino is the type of head coach who wants his wide forwards to invert, joining in centrally as No 10s or as a second striker.

When they press, this narrow set-up also blocks up the central lane, making it easier to create dangerous turnovers.

Defending from the front

Pochettino is known for his physically-challenging training sessions, and that workload usually translates into teams who are exceptionally fit and able to play at a high tempo.

During the successful 2015/16 and 2016/17 campaigns, Pochettino’s Spurs pressed magnificently from the front.

Their PPDA (passes per defensive action) numbers were outstanding, and they consistently produced chances from high turnovers.

Spurs' pressing 2015/16 & 2016/17
  15/16 Rank 16/17 Rank
High turnovers 264 5th 250 5th
Shot-ending high turnovers 48 3rd 44 3rd
Start distance (m) 42.2 3rd 42.1 3rd
PPDA 8.2 1st 9.2 1st
Shots faced 422 4th 348 4th

If Chelsea’s attacking players are not willing to work hard out of possession, they may not stay the course under the former Paris Saint-Germain head coach.

He considers defending from the front a non-negotiable aspect of his tactical framework.

Giving youth a chance

This philosophy lends itself to the use of young players, so do not be surprised if the Argentinian reduces the average of Chelsea’s starting XI.

At Spurs he gave lots of playing time to players in their early 20s. Indeed, during his first three full seasons Spurs had the youngest average age in the Premier League.

Average age of Pochettino's starting XI
Season Years Days PL rank
2014/15 24 282 1st
2015/16 24 328 1st
2016/17 25 298 1st
2017/18 26 53 3rd
2018/19 27 65 11th

It is likely that Pochettino’s vision for Chelsea is to implement a more energised tactical approach, with younger players at the core.

With proven Premier League pedigree and a style of play that should please Chelsea fans, his appointment is an exciting one.

Also in this series

Part 1: Pochettino appointed at Chelsea as new head coach
Part 3: 'Pochettino will bring goals and sunshine'

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