EXCLUSIVE: Chelsea defender Marc Cucurella admits big-spending Blues now have 'no excuses' as 'new era' begins
With Chelsea languishing in mid-table, Marc Cucurella has become the target of some harsh criticism for his performances since arriving at Stamford Bridge in a £62 million ($74m) transfer from Brighton in the summer – the early days of club owner Todd Boehly’s lavish spending.
In truth, that inflated price tag was always likely to prove difficult to live up to, and has been an easily-within-reach stick to beat him with through no fault of his own. Of the entire squad, only veteran centre-back Thiago Silva can claim to have consistently performed at the required level so far in 2022-23. No surprises there.
Cucurella has simply been an occasionally malfunctioning cog in a regularly dysfunctional machine.
However, following a £320m ($383m) spree in January which took Chelsea’s spending north of £600m since the start of the summer transfer window (including Cucurella’s costly arrival), the upbeat Spaniard believes now is the time for a fresh start, with a renewed impetus hopefully resulting in a late push for a top four place.
“It’s difficult because we’ve had a lot of changes, a lot of new players,” he says. “I think maybe this season is the time to build a new era. For us I think it’s very important [to] play in the Champions League.
“The first part of the season was not so good, but now we don’t have excuses. We need to train hard, we need to focus on winning games and finishing the league in the top four.”
The Spaniard believes Chelsea now have the tools to achieve their goals – especially in attack. The Blues welcomed a raft of new forward players in January, including Mykhailo Mudryk, Joao Felix and Noni Madueke.
“It’s very important for us because they create a lot of chances, they have the capacity to dribble,” Cucurella says of his new team-mates. “It’s difficult to train against them because they are top players, but I think the most important [thing] is they play for Chelsea, for our team, and they need to help the team to win the games.”
Asked who he believes will be the most valuable weapon to the club, he adds: “Maybe Mudryk, [he] is so fast and has a lot of skills, I think he’s a really, really good player. He has the quality to be, in a few years, a top player in the world. He needs to learn and stay happy in his new club.”
Cucurella had been a regular starter under his former Brighton manager Graham Potter, but he was surprisingly ousted from the line-up for three games in January by 18-year-old Lewis Hall.
Fast-forward a month, and not only does Cucurella now have young Hall to contend with, but Ben Chilwell is also back in the fold after recovering from a long-term injury.
But rather than bemoan his situation, the ever-positive Cucurella sees that competition for places as a benefit.
“I think it’s good for the team, we need to train well every day, play well every game, and I think this competition is good for the club,” he says.
“The responsibility to do the line-up is for the coach and we need to stay ready if you start the game or enter as a sub. I think we need to put everything on the pitch, training hard, playing hard and then it’s our job to stay ready for every minute.”
It’s clear that Cucurella understands what is required for Chelsea to push clear of the shackles on mid-table and towards the European places. He will hope he has a big role to play as this "new era" gains momentum.
Cucurella was speaking to GOAL at a PUMA event.