Do you believe the pressure is really growing on Mauricio Pochettino? Can he stay in charge of Chelsea if results continue to remain the same?
“As we all know, the clock is always ticking. What’s frustrating everybody that’s associated with the club at the moment is that it’s always one step forward, two steps back. They’re dropping points and losing games against teams that they should be beating and the manner in which they’re losing these games is even more worrying.
“I’ve always said that Chelsea should be allowed time for the dust to settle because there’s been so many changes at the club, but you can only say that for so long. I still believe that Pochettino’s the man to get everything in order, but it’s continuing to take a long time for everything to fall into place. I didn’t expect him to turn everything around quickly, but there’s been a number of results this season that shouldn’t be happening.
“One week, Chelsea look really good and appear to have bounced back and then in the next game they look like a completely different team.”
Do you believe Chelsea have an identity under Mauricio Pochettino?
“No, not at the moment. You can see that he’s trying to get them to play good football, which is the norm for everybody now and some weeks they’re capable of that and some weeks they’re not.
“I think the main reason his team is struggling for an identity is because Pochettino doesn’t know what his best eleven is. That’s not me making an excuse for him. There’s a lot of players in that squad and there’s a lot of similar players too and they’re in and out of form, so it’s hard for him to nail down eleven players that are always going to be a permanent fixture in the team. If most of the players are always up and down, then that’s making Pochettino’s life a hell of a lot harder.”
Do you believe there’s a lot of deadwood in this Chelsea squad that needs clearing out? Are you fearful that they will struggle to get rid of players due to many of the long-term contracts they’ve been handed?
“It’s a very young squad and many of the players within it don’t have a lot of Premier League experience. There’s deadwood at every club but in Chelsea’s case, they won’t be selling any of the new lads in the near future because of the length of their contracts.
“I think what’s let Chelsea down is that they’ve signed a lot of players and only a handful of them are improving the team. The club was probably expecting at least half of their signings to have hit the ground running, but that just hasn’t happened. A lot of the players aren’t in form and there’s a lot of players at the club without a lot of Premier League experience. It’s a complete mixture across the board.”
Any players in particular that you believe aren’t good enough for Chelsea?
“A lot of the players have shown glimpses of what they can do. [Marc] Cucurella has bounced back a little bit under Pochettino, but obviously he didn’t look great before his recent spell in the side, so it’s hard to pin down exactly who the deadwood are because on their day, all the players in the squad are good enough to perform.
“Chelsea need to start winning games when they’re not playing well because those are the results that matter most. Chelsea are so hot and cold and it’s making it difficult for them to gather momentum. If they can find a bit of form and get back to basics, then I believe I’d be able to identify a lot more clearly who’s the deadwood, and who isn’t.”
What do you make of Pochettino’s claim that his side ‘are missing something’ and believes that they need to spend again in the January transfer window? Since the former Tottenham manager has been in charge at Chelsea, he’s already spent over £400 million on 13 players.
“The owners have definitely put their hand in their pocket, which is a good thing, but whether Pochettino has signed these players or not is the real question. If these moves were all in the pipeline before Poch took over, then that’s out of his control.
“Any manager’s going to want more money aren’t they? If the club’s owners are prepared to back him with two or three big names, then the manager’s going to want that and push for it.
“He does need some big players and I believe he’s suggesting that he needs a player that’s going to be a big character in the dressing room, has plenty of Premier League experience and will grab the youngster’s attention.
“When you look at their squad, Thiago Silva is the obvious character that stands out, but other than him, who’re the experienced players that are going to grab everybody’s attention and gain a reaction from the players? There are not many players with authority in Chelsea’s squad at this moment in time because they’re all so young.
“They need a couple of older guys that can rally the troops and have that in-game experience that can help Chelsea stop losing games they shouldn’t.”
As an ex-Chelsea player, how sad are you to see the club struggle currently?
“Of course I don’t want to see them struggling. I want to see them challenging for trophies and being guaranteed a top four finish. That’s what a club of that stature should be achieving. It’s frustrating to watch, but I still believe they’ll bounce back and won’t be struggling for a long time to come. However, I did believe they would be climbing the table by now. I’m frustrated by how slow the progress has been, but I do believe they’ll bounce back.”
Chelsea or Manchester United, which club is in a bigger crisis right now?
“It pains me to say it, but at this very moment, I’d have to say Chelsea. It has to be. Chelsea are 12th in the league and Manchester United are 6th and I know they’re not the Manchester United of old, but they’re only six or seven points away from being involved in the Premier League title race. For that reason, I don’t believe they’re in as much of a crisis as Chelsea are.
“Manchester United fans will be fuming with their form this season, so I understand why people claim they’re in a crisis, but when you look at how far away they are in terms of points, it doesn't look that bad on paper. Being sixth in the league isn’t the end of the world, so I would much rather be sixth than twelfth.”
Chelsea have been linked with a move for AC Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan. Maignan impressed in last season’s Champions League and is one of Europe’s most sought after goalkeepers. Do you believe he would be the perfect addition for Chelsea or are you feeling more confident about Robert Sánchez in recent weeks and do you believe there’s been enough evidence to suggest that he can be the club’s number one on a long-term basis?
“Maignan is obviously a very good goalkeeper, but is he miles better than Robert Sánchez? I don’t know. Is there any point in making a big move for a player that isn’t miles better than what you already have in that position? I believe that Sánchez is more than good enough for Chelsea right now, but is he good enough to be the club’s number one for the next ten years? That’s highly unlikely.
“Considering where the club is now, I don’t believe the goalkeeper position is their biggest worry at this very moment. Chelsea have spent a fortune on goalkeepers in the last few years and those players should have been successful for them and still be there. I don’t believe that spending a lot of money on another goalkeeper is the right thing to do at this moment because Sánchez is a good goalkeeper and doesn’t need replacing urgently.”
And finally on Chelsea we want to ask you about your thoughts on a couple of the big money signings Todd Boehly has made at the club since becoming owner in June 2022. Firstly, please can you sum up Mykhailo Mudryk’s time at Stamford Bridge so far?
“Unfortunately, you’d have to say he’s been greatly disappointing when you consider the attributes he’s got. For a player with blistering speed and trickery, he doesn’t seem to use it.
“He came for a lot of money, which isn’t his fault, but I definitely thought we’d have seen a hell of a lot more from him. It’s frustrating because it looks as if he has it all, but he doesn’t have the end product at the moment.
“We were hoping that he would get a couple of goals and kick on, but then he did score a few and he still didn’t kick on. He’s been frustrating overall.”
And secondly, Mudryk’s fellow January signing Enzo Fernández…
“I like him. He’s obviously a top player and I think he’s been one of Todd Boehly’s successful signings. He’s not good enough to change the fortunes of the team by himself, but he’s certainly a talented player.
“You can’t put in a performance like he did against Liverpool in the opening game of the season if you’re an average player. I think he enjoys his role under Pochettino, but I don’t believe he’s been very consistent. Overall, I still believe he’s been a positive signing.”
Thirdly, Marc Cucurella…
“Marc Cucurella has been a bit hit or miss and he probably didn’t get as much football as he would have expected to in his first season with the club. However, now he’s been playing more regularly and he’s seemed to have gotten his manager's respect and attention. I do believe he will be a positive signing for the club in the long-term, but more because of his recent performances instead of his early days at Chelsea.”
“I don’t think his performances for Chelsea have been as good as they should have been. I mean that with respect to Raheem because he’s a bloody good player and you don’t get to play for the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City or Chelsea without being a top player.
“I think Raz suffers a bit with his form and confidence, but we have witnessed him bounce back before. His performances a few weeks ago were world-class. Some of Chelsea’s players are top players, but they’re just so hot and cold. If Raheem can get his confidence back and find a little bit of form, then he’s still capable of being world-class. However, because everybody knows how good he is, and how good he can be, Chelsea fans would have been expecting a little bit more from him.”
And finally, Moisés Caicedo…
“He’s a bloody good player, but I don’t think he’s living up to the massive hype when Liverpool and Chelsea were fighting over him and it was talk of the town. What I think Liverpool have done there is cost Chelsea a hell of a lot more money and I don't think he's living up to that hype.
“He’s a good player. Was he worth the price tag? Probably not. Brighton only had one chance to sell him, so they obviously tried to ride that hype to get as much money as they possibly could for him, but for me, he’s not living up to that hype. I would still say he’s a good signing, but not for that price.”
Liverpool, Arsenal, Aston Villa or Manchester City, who are the favourites for the Premier League title in your opinion?
“Right now, I would say Liverpool, but only just. I say that because to win the Premier League, you have to win games when you’re not playing well and Liverpool weren’t great against Crystal Palace and Fulham, but they managed to come from behind and win those games. They’ve scored some world-class goals to help them along the way and that’s obviously not going to happen all the time, so when those guys are finding that little bit of magic, then that’s hard to maintain. You’re not going to be able to do that all the time.
“The fact that they’ve been able to win games that they’ve not played well in is the mark of champions. You can say the same about Manchester City. They didn’t play great against Luton Town, but they bounced back and won, so they are the two teams in the title race currently that are winning football matches when they’re not playing well.
“Of course, Liverpool are going to play well a hell of a lot more times than they don’t, so if they can win those games where they’re not playing well, which will come around once every four or five games, then they’re going to know that there’s many other games coming around the corner, where they will play much better in and win. That’s why I believe they have a slight advantage in the title race this season.”
What’s your prediction for Liverpool versus Manchester United on Sunday?
“Well hopefully it’s another convincing victory for Liverpool. These games are the type of matches where form goes out the window a little bit. It’s obviously a massive fixture and it’s even more important for Manchester United to perform considering their recent results, so they're going to have to do everything they can to prevent an embarrassing defeat, otherwise there will be uproar.
“It’s okay to lose to Liverpool, but you have to lose with respect and go down fighting. You can’t lose 3-0 or anything like that. Say if they lost 2-1 away at Anfield, then that’s quite a respectable result as long as they put in a performance. Manchester United just can’t embarrass themselves in this fixture. It’s okay for them to lose, but they would have to come down fighting.”
Do you believe Jürgen Klopp is right to be upset about the amount of Saturday 12.30pm kick-offs his team have had to contend with in recent times? Do you believe it is having a big effect on the welfare of Liverpool’s players?
“If Liverpool are going into the depth of all the competitions, which they will, then they’re going to have so many games. If you’re squeezing in games, you’re going to be playing matches at irregular times, so I guess they have to be ready for that. However, in [Jürgen] Klopp’s defence, why do Liverpool have so many 12:30 kick-offs? Why is it not shared around?
“Klopp’s reaction is the example of a manager doing the right thing by his players. Every manager wants a longer time to recover, to get their players fit and healthy for the games. He’s only doing what every other manager should do in terms of wanting more rest for their players. Those extra few hours could mean a lot as it gives players extra time to rest and prepare for games, so Jürgen is just trying to protect his players the best way he can.”
After Joël Matip was ruled out for the season with an ACL injury, do you believe Liverpool need to sign a new centre-back in the January transfer window?
“It’s tough. I think Liverpool needed bodies anyway, so they definitely need to buy someone, but is it going to be someone who supports the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konaté, or is it going to be someone that’s going to walk straight into the starting eleven?
“If they don’t get another body in, I think the guys they’ve already got in reserve are good enough, but it’s a risky one because when you’re fighting for a title, then you’re going to get found out quite quickly if you’re not matching the standard of the players you’re deputising for. I think they need to sign someone who’s going to be a backup to the players they’ve already got and not a huge name that’s going to cost them a fortune.”
With talk about Liverpool needing a proper ‘number six’ in their midfield, they, along with Arsenal and Manchester United, are reportedly interested in Fulham’s João Palhinha. Would he be a wonderful addition to fill that position for your former club?
“I think he would suit the team really well. It’s obvious that he’s a really good footballer and I always feel more confident when Liverpool sign players that have performed well in the Premier League. When you also have the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United sniffing around him, they’re all not going to be wrong about him. When players are performing at the level he is in the Premier League, then that’s a massive box ticked.
“Obviously, there are so many top players around the world, but when they’re doing it week in, week out at a so-called ‘smaller club’ with performances this good, I think João Palhinha would adapt into that position for Liverpool quite easily.”