The five biggest jobs facing Mauricio Pochettino as he begins work at Chelsea

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Pochettino Chelsea 2023-24
The Argentine arrives at Cobham with plenty to get through in his in-tray beyond the usual pre-season commitments...

"What we can promise is to work hard and defend this shirt until the end. We are going to try do everything for them to feel proud and to show that we really, really care. That is what we can promise." Those were the words of Mauricio Pochettino on Monday as he officially began work as head coach of Chelsea Football Club.

Evidently he is under no illusions as to the scale of the task facing him, as the squad enters the final stages of a 12-month overhaul. There will be no honeymoon period, either, as the Argentine gets straight down to work in what is a pivotal pre-season for the club as it searches for an identity and fresh impetus after an unprecedented clear-out.

Below, GOAL runs through the five biggest jobs facing Pochettino as he starts work in west London...

  1. Continue the clear-out
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    Continue the clear-out

    After a slow start, Chelsea's clear-out gathered serious pace towards the end of June as the club desperately sought to balance their accounts for the 2022-23 season before the month was out. Co-sporting directors Paul Winstanley and Laurence Stewart have been busy, with as many as seven established first-team stars shipped out in a short period, with more to follow.

    Edouard Mendy, Kalidou Koulibaly and N'Golo Kante have all headed to Saudi Arabia, Kai Havertz, Mason Mount and Mateo Kovacic have remained in the Premier League with Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City, respectively, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek has taken on a new challenge in Italy with AC Milan.

    It's unclear how much of a say Pochettino has had in the decision-making to this point as a head coach rather than a manager, but he will surely have more involvement in the next phase of the fire sale. Indeed, he will likely have his work cut out.

    Cesar Azpilicueta is expected to return to Spain, Callum Hudson-Odoi wants a move and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be cut loose. Meanwhile, Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic are highly likely to follow through the Stamford Bridge exits. Romelu Lukaku's future is up for discussion, but he has no desire to extend his stay at Chelsea.

  2. Forge a togetherness

    Forge a togetherness

    While Chelsea's clear-out was necessary, there will be some concerns over a loss of identity given just how many long-serving players have departed or are expected to leave, and indeed because of the hoard of new arrivals in the past year.

    Pochettino is in new surroundings, too, but he will have to quickly understand what it means to represent Chelsea and the mentality required to succeed at Stamford Bridge before imparting that wisdom onto his squad. The next step will be to foster a togetherness and synergy that will be the backbone to their success, like so many Blues squads of years gone by.

    Judging by his first interview at the club, that is something Pochettino is acutely aware of. "We need to be team that shows togetherness, cares about the club, cares about the fans, and that fights until the end for the badge," he said. "That’s the most important thing. The fans need to feel that all the players involved in the game are going to die for the club. That is the most important thing to create this good feeling and for sure feel proud of each other."

  3. Choose a new captain

    Choose a new captain

    So, who will be the man to lead this new-look Chelsea team on the pitch? With Azpilicueta's departure imminent, Chelsea will have lost both their club captain and vice-captain in the space of seven months, following Jorginho's move to Arsenal in January.

    Consequently, Pochettino needs to establish a new on-field leadership team heading into the new season. The problem is that, courtesy of the clear-out, his choice of long-serving players who understand the club and carry its identity will be limited.

    On paper, the most obvious options seem to be Thiago Silva - who has worn the armband in the past - and Reece James, while Raheem Sterling and Ben Chilwell may also come under consideration. It will be interesting to see which direction Pochettino goes in.

  4. Fitness, fitness, fitness

    Fitness, fitness, fitness

    Despite his nice-guy persona in front of the cameras, Pochettino has gained notoriety for his hard-line approach in pre-season as he pushes his players to the limit in order to achieve the optimum fitness required for his high-pressing, high-energy style of play.

    It's been reported they face a gruelling two-week regime, which will likely include one of the Argentine's preferred methods, the 'Gacon test' - an intermittent 45-second shuttle run test where the distances increase each time.

    In truth, it is exactly what the group needs to be whipped into shape; interim manager Frank Lampard suggested late last season that many players simply weren't fit enough and many struggled with injury issues throughout the 2022-23 campaign. That is likely a result of himself and predecessor Graham Potter having to work with a bloated, 31-strong squad, with training sessions particularly problematic as individuals were able to avoid scrutiny among the crowd.

  5. Targeted recruitment

    Targeted recruitment

    In the lead-up to the summer it was rumoured that Chelsea's transfer window would be centred around a jettison of unwanted players and anyone who attracted a significant offer who was deemed expendable. As previously mentioned, that has proven to be the case in a spectacular way, with the club partway through a remarkable overhaul of the playing staff.

    However, despite the huge outlay on new players over the past 12 months, there is still the need for some targeted spending to fine tune what will become a relatively inexperienced squad. At least one midfielder is on their shopping list, with talks progressing for Brighton's Moises Caicedo, and a more advanced playmaker may be sought to replace the outgoing Mount.

    Another priority, of course, will be finding a new striker to lead the line if the right opportunity arises at the right price. If not, it has been reported that Chelsea are confident that new signing Christopher Nkunku has the goalscoring ability to plug that hole.