Mauricio Pochettino makes quick Nicolas Jackson U-turn after difficult Chelsea start
Raheem Sterling has been one of the saving graces for Mauricio Pochettino since he arrived at Chelsea, and the winger is finally starting to prove his worth following his move from Manchester City. The forward has been in electric form in the opening four matches of the season and showcased why Thomas Tuchel was so desperate to work with him 12 months ago.
Heading into the summer transfer window, Pochettino made it no secret that he needed to reshuffle his ranks. Those who were keen to leave had their exits facilitated, such as Cesar Azpilicueta and Mateo Kovacic, with those running down their respective contracts also offloaded.
Numerous players were also deemed no longer good enough for the Chelsea project and thus offloaded. Sterling was among the players tipped to be offloaded after his miserable 2022/23 campaign that saw his £47.5million price tag ridiculed.
However, Pochettino kept the faith and ruled that he wanted to work with the England international – and the winger has repaid the faith of his manager with an electric start to the new campaign. Sterling has scored two in four appearances so far this season, which somewhat undersells his influence in the Chelsea side.
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The ex-City star has breathed a new lease of life into the Blues attack with his direct runs on the flank and willingness to come inside to influence the play. On current form, Sterling is irreplaceable despite the growing list of alternatives at Stamford Bridge. And Pochettino has Tuchel to thank for having the England wide-man.
The 28-year-old does appear to be the only gift that Tuchel left Chelsea after he was shockingly sacked exactly a year ago and replaced by Graham Potter. The German boss acquired 13 players during his tenure at the club, though only a few have even had memorable moments in a Blues strip.
Despite the influence of Sterling both on and off the pitch, Tuchel has left the Chelsea higher powers with a huge £150m headache in the shape of Romelu Lukaku and Marc Cucurella.
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Both players were acquired for mammoth fees but no longer appear to have significant futures at the club. Their sales would have been green-lighted if sufficient offers arrived – but they didn’t. No clubs want to sign the pair permanently because of the transfer fees Chelsea want and because of their wages.
Lukaku looked destined to return to Inter Milan over the summer but burnt bridges at the club when negotiations broke down with the Serie A outfit. Chelsea unsuccessfully pushed to sell the Belgian international and had to settle for a loan move to Roma for the forward, with his £97.5m price tag continuing to be one of the most significant overspends in recent Premier League history.
Similarly, Chelsea appeared to waste precious funds last summer when splashing £63m on Cucurella after an impressive campaign with Brighton. The Spaniard struggled in his debut campaign in London and was consequently offered to numerous outfits over the past few months.
The player pulled the plug on potential exits by ruling that he wanted to prove his worth at the club – leaving Pochettino with a significant conundrum to solve before January. If Cucurella doesn’t find form, Chelsea will struggle to find anyone willing to take him off their hands on a permanent basis – unless they sell him on the cheap.
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