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Chelsea should now follow Arsenal’s example

Midway through last month’s Premier League match away to Brentford, the sentiment against Mauricio Pochettino turned amongst the Chelsea support. En masse, the Blues’ supporters chanted in a way that made clear in no uncertain terms their desire to see the Argentinean leave Stamford Bridge sooner rather than later.

This season has undeniably been another challenging one for Chelsea. They are slumped in ninth place in the Premier League table with just seven fixtures of the 2023/24 campaign left to play and will do well to qualify for any sort of European football. If Chelsea play matches in continental competition, it will only be in the Europa Conference League.

Tuesday’s fixture against Arsenal could thrust into focus just how far Chelsea have fallen from the top of the Premier League. For much of the last 20 years, it has been Chelsea setting the precedent over their North London rivals, but the landscape has changed over the last few seasons. Now it’s Arsenal leading the way.

It wasn’t so long ago, however, that Arsenal were also toiling under Mikel Arteta. Indeed, the Gunners finished a lowly eighth in the first two seasons with the Spaniard in charge. In Arteta’s third season, Arteta improved and finished fifth, but still missed out on qualifying for the Champions League. Progress was slow.

There were even times when progress wasn’t evident at all. In August 2021, Arteta was left fighting for his job after a dreadful start to the season which saw Arsenal lose their opening three matches. A difficult period in early winter which included defeats to Liverpool, Manchester United and Everton also raised questions over the former midfielder’s managerial future.

In these challenging times, though, Arteta could point to the principles he was instilling within his team. Arsenal had an identity and that ultimately provided the framework for them to become genuine Premier League title challengers again with the Gunners still on an upward trajectory in their development.

Pochettino has something similar to use as evidence of his influence this season. Consistent form might have evaded Chelsea, but they are playing a more proactive, modern style of football. The Blues are ranked fifth in the Premier League for Expected Goals (xG) this season, hinting at the thing that has held them back – the lack of a reliable finisher.

Of course, Cole Palmer has emerged as one of the players of the season since making the move to Stamford Bridge from Manchester City last summer. The 21-year-old has scored an incredible 20 goals in 27 league games, but will now be sidelined for a spell through illness. He isn’t expected to feature against Arsenal on Tuesday.

“It is a good challenge in case Palmer is not available,” Pochettino said ahead of the game. “It’s a good challenge for the teammates. If I am a teammate of Cole Palmer in his position or a similar position, I am going to be motivated to go there tomorrow and show this is Chelsea Football Club, not Cole Palmer Football Club.”

Chelsea could do with a few more ‘Palmers’ in the team to push themselves up the Premier League table. Instead, they have a host of talented, but raw, individuals who require a lot of coaching to reach their full potential – see Nicolas Jackson, Noni Madueke and Mykhailo Mudryk just to name a few.

The Chelsea support might have turned against Pochettino, but the club’s hierarchy should persevere with the Argentinean for the time being. Arsenal afforded Arteta patience when other clubs wouldn’t have and are now reaping the rewards. After two decades of leading Arsenal, Chelsea should now follow their example.

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