Forget Tottenham & PSG sacking - Mauricio Pochettino is the ideal man to kickstart Chelsea's new era
After an exhaustive and exhausting search for a permanent manager, Chelsea's co-sporting directors Paul Winstanley and Laurence Stewart have found their man: Mauricio Pochettino.
It was unthinkable that the cherished former Tottenham boss would ever take charge of another Premier League club, let alone one of Spurs' greatest rivals, but the concept of Pochettino taking his seat in the Stamford Bridge dugout is something that Chelsea and Spurs fans alike will have to get used to, with the Argentine's arrival on an initial two-year deal finally being confirmed on Monday.
It will be a divisive appointment in some quarters, given his seemingly unbreakable bond with the Tottenham fanbase (however one-sided that relationship has become), but he is the ideal candidate to guide Chelsea out of the mess they currently find themselves in and on to better things.
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The perfect project
Things were supposed to be wildly different at the end of Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali's first full season as Chelsea owners, especially after two transfer windows of lavish spending.
But instead of fighting for silverware, the Blues find themselves out of each cup competition and desperately staving off a descent into the mire of lower mid-table, more than 30 points off the pace set by Premier League leaders Manchester City and second-placed Arsenal.
Similarly, but perhaps not as drastically, Pochettino's stock has dipped since his unceremonious dismissal at Paris Saint-Germain a year ago, but he is still regarded as one of the best in the business and will be keen to prove that at Stamford Bridge - much like another PSG cast-off, Thomas Tuchel, before him.
As a result, Pochettino's arrival cannot be viewed as a top manager joining a top club, but rather a coach with a point to prove joining a team that is in desperate need of galvanising.
Chelsea could well be the perfect fit; Pochettino's reputation is built upon improving struggling teams and helping them to reach their full potential; he guided Southampton to what was their highest-ever Premier League finish in 2013-14, before famously taking a Tottenham side that had been incapable of qualifying for the Champions League to the final of the 2019 edition.
That incremental improvement at both clubs has been underpinned by an exciting, front-footed brand of football, and Boehly and Eghbali will be desperate for Pochettino to implement those ideas with an expensively assembled squad bursting with unfulfilled attacking talent.
Chelsea and Pochettino are wounded animals, and together they could become something very dangerous.
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The longevity Chelsea crave
That's not to say that Pochettino turned Spurs' fortunes around as soon as he arrived at White Hart Lane.
He only took Tottenham from sixth to fifth in his first season and still missed out on that elusive Champions League place - something Tim Sherwood was effectively sacked for a year prior.
The key in north London, though, was that he was given the time and afforded the patience to mould the team in his image, ultimately building something incredibly special over a five-year period and breathing life into the club both on and off the pitch.
Given the resources and existing squad that will be at his disposal at Stamford Bridge, Pochettino will back himself to replicate his exploits on the west side of the capital and oversee gradual improvement. A title challenge within the next three seasons should perhaps be the realistic aim.
At 51, he is still relatively young, he has previously professed his love of living in London, and he is an advocate for the attacking brand of football the Chelsea owners seem to want their team to play.
Boehly and Eghbali had hinted that they wanted a manager for the long-term and there would be patience throughout the bad times, but having pulled the plug on their Graham Potter project very prematurely, they should have some confidence that Pochettino has the credentials to oversee the development of the team for a number of years.
The fans wanted him
The general consensus has always been that Pochettino's profound connection with the Tottenham fanbase would be a stumbling block to a move to any other Premier League club.
As it turns out, that is probably wasn't the case - and he was even willing to join one of Spurs' most bitter rivals.
The Chelsea hierarchy was reportedly pleasantly surprised by the fans' reception to the news that Pochettino was in line for the role, a testament to the Argentine's popularity throughout the game and a reflection of a desire to laud his arrival over Spurs.
Surprisingly, this is unlikely to be a divisive appointment, with Blues followers clearly craving the kind of synergy the coach fostered with Tottenham supporters during his time there - especially having failed to warm to his predecessor Potter - and another stick with which to beat their foes across the capital.
The players wanted him
It's not just the supporters who are in favour of Pochettino becoming Chelsea manager - the players are keen on the idea, too.
According to The Telegraph, the first round of news that he could be coming generated excitement in the dressing room, with many members of the squad aware of the Argentine's coaching, motivational ability and man-management skills. They've no doubt been reading more about him since then.
During his time in north London, it was clear that Pochettino's players would run through a brick wall for him, and having looked distinctly unmotivated at times under both Potter and interim manager Frank Lampard, the Chelsea squad is clearly prepared to get down to work for the right person.
A nice guy, but not another Potter
Pochettino is widely regarded as one of football's good guys, but unlike his predecessor Potter, he still possesses that edge that will endear the Chelsea fanbase to him far more than niceties.
Potter was considered to be a nice guy to a fault, as the Stamford Bridge faithful failed to warm to him and he seemingly failed to command respect in the dressing room, with some players lowering themselves to making Harry Potter jibes as his expense.
Pochettino is a man who can do both; his warm, relaxed demeanour is lapped up by journalists and supporters, but he is perfectly capable of losing his temper and letting his emotions get the better of him on the touchline. That can sometimes get you into trouble, but it is exactly what Chelsea fans crave after Potter's perceived emotionlessness.
His experience counts for a lot, too. While there is no doubting the job Potter had done at Brighton, there was a perception that the Chelsea job was too big a leap at this stage of his career, and that looked to be the case despite him not being afforded the time to turn things around.
Pochettino has a demonstrable track record at every level - guiding Espanyol from relegation battlers to mid-table, Southampton to new heights, Tottenham to a Champions League final and PSG to Ligue 1 success.
It is, of course, not the most glittering CV ever to have been perused by those high up at Stamford Bridge, but his reputation precedes him, and he has done enough to command respect.
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Track record with young talent
One of the hallmarks of Pochettino's success at Tottenham was his development of young players and emphasis on homegrown talent.
The coach most notably oversaw academy product and record goalscorer Harry Kane's remarkable rise to prominence having previously been a serial loanee, while he signed Son Heung-min as a relatively unknown 23-year-old who has gone on to become one of the best wingers on the planet. Dele Alli, too, enjoyed the best years of his career working under Pochettino.
Meanwhile, other Hotspur Way graduates such as Harry Winks, Danny Rose and Ryan Mason were all given their opportunity and became first-team regulars.
His track record at Tottenham with young players should be hugely encouraging for Chelsea's burgeoning ranks of Under-25 talent, and especially English players such as Mason Mount, Noni Madueke, Conor Gallagher and Carney Chukwuemeka.
However, given how much talent he will have at his disposal, Pochettino's time at PSG should perhaps serve as a warning, as he struggled to juggle a bloated squad of big names and find space for up-and-coming academy products.
He even had to defend his failure to select young players in the latter stages of last season, saying: "I didn’t say they were going to play, I said they might have some minutes. We’ve built a team with 30 established players. It wasn’t changed in January. The room for young players is not big. They have to deserve this playing time."
Chelsea will hope a summer clearout of their own crowded ranks will mean they don't face the same problems.
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No other choice?
Chelsea's search for a new manager has been so drawn out that they have backed themselves into something of a corner.
Former Barcelona and Spain boss Luis Enrique was seen as the best fit by a large section of the club's followers, but he dropped out of contention following a second round of talks.
Sacked Bayern Munich head coach Julian Nagelsmann was consequently considered to be the clear favourite, but he backed away from the process having seemingly been irked by Chelsea's failure to settle on him.
It was briefed that Chelsea hadn't wanted Nagelsmann in the first place, but his withdrawal will no doubt have been a blow to co-sporting directors Winstanley and Stewart as an exciting candidate was taken away from them and their already-limited options were cut down significantly.
There are parallels between Pochettino and Nagelsmann: the German took lowly Hoffenheim from the brink of relegation to Champions League qualification, and RB Leipzig to the semi-finals of that competition in 2019.
But his fiery exit from Bayern was perhaps a warning sign that he is a more volatile option when Chelsea are in dire need of stability.
With Luis Enrique overlooked, there is absolutely no doubt that Pochettino was the outstanding remaining candidate.