After their 4-2 defeat to Wolves on Sunday, Mauricio Pochettino admitted that “nobody can be safe” at Chelsea. Do you believe time is running out for Pochettino at Stamford Bridge?
“When you look at the results, you’d have to say yes but he’s taken over at the club during a turbulent period. Due to the club's situation at the time he took over, and the situation they remain in now, I don’t believe the pressure is on him as much as the results suggest because the owners have made a load of changes, so it’s very hard to expect a new manager to come in and turn things around so quickly.
“If it’s result based, then yes he’s under pressure, but considering the fact that there’s so much ongoing change at Chelsea, then I don’t believe his job is currently under that much of a threat.”
Do you believe Pochettino should be getting a tune out of his players or do you believe the job is a poison chalice currently? Do you believe any other manager could get a tune out of this current Chelsea squad?
“I think it’s a bit of both. For the quality that Chelsea have in their squad, I would have thought that Pochettino would have got them firing and playing better sooner. However, the problem is that we only get to see them at the weekend and people forget that the owners came in and fired like 50% of the backroom staff and many of them were people who knew the club inside out.
“Poch can’t do everything on his own and he needs a good team around him that knows the club, knows all about the infrastructure and knows the players. We don’t know what’s going on at the training ground and how the players are being helped behind the scenes because we only see them on a matchday.
“An awful lot contributes to a good team and a good level of performance and I don’t really think that any other manager could have done a better job than Poch at this moment in time. Mauricio is a good manager and the squad looks great on paper, so once the club is rebuilt again from the ground up, then I believe they will be back to where we all expect Chelsea to be.
“Using Liverpool as a prime example, they built the club from the ground up and didn’t start with their first eleven and work backwards from that.”
If the manager’s role was to become available in the near future, who would you like to see take the job? Brighton’s Roberto De Zerbi and high flying Girona’s Michel Sanchez are the two current favourites for the role.
“Regarding Michel Sanchez, and without taking anything anyway from him, but any manager could have a good season. I don’t believe he or Roberto De Zerbi are technically better managers than Pochettino, so for Chelsea to make a move for either of those managers is a lot more risk than it’s worth. They’re evidently two good managers doing well at their respective clubs, but I believe that going through the process of sacking another manager and causing even more unrest would be counterproductive for Chelsea at the moment because they know that Pochettino came into the club during a turbulent period. You can’t bring a manager into this unstable situation that you’ve created, and expect them to perform straight away and not give them time.
“The owners have stuck their hand in their pocket, which is something that the Chelsea fans would have wanted, and they’ve now got a great manager that deserves time to get his head around the squad and get themselves in the right position to proceed forward. We can’t keep saying that he needs time to allow the dust to settle, but I’m sure the owners would have expected the job to be a difficult one for Pochettino and I believe he deserves to still be a part of their plans for the next few years at the club.”
Regarding Roberto De Zerbi, would Graham Potter’s spell at Chelsea put you off the idea of the Italian making the move from Brighton to Stamford Bridge if the opportunity presented itself?
“Not really because they’re two different managers and they’re two different people. I wouldn’t be put off by De Zerbi on the basis that a former Brighton manager has made that move previously and not done well. The whole process is what puts me off. Going through the task of hiring another manager, bringing more change and more uncertainty, that’s what puts me off. However, going back to De Zerbi and Potter, just because one of them failed doesn’t mean that the other one will, but I don’t want Chelsea to go through the process of bringing in another manager so soon.”
Are you surprised that Chelsea allowed Armando Broja to go to Fulham on loan on the final day of the transfer window?
“Yes. Everybody knows how light Chelsea are in that area of the squad, so it’s a bit of a shock that they’ve allowed him to leave without bringing somebody else in to replace him. He was certainly a good option for them and now they’re even lighter in that position.
“Armando’s probably going to go to Fulham and do really well. That wouldn’t surprise me at all. I would have preferred for him to stay, unless Chelsea found a replacement that was better than he is currently, but they didn’t.”
Do you believe that’s the last we’ve seen of Broja in a Chelsea shirt?
“Yes, probably. Put it this way, if you’re one of the few strikers at a club that are crying out for a striker and you’re not playing regularly, then when are you likely to ever get a chance? His career at Chelsea is probably over, unless he does amazing at Fulham. He will have to be the main man at Fulham, score plenty of goals for them between now and the end of the season and prove he can be the main man for Chelsea, so if that happens, they may keep him next season. However, if he goes to Fulham and scores four or five goals in the second half of the season, then I believe his Chelsea days are over.”
How confident are you that Chelsea will sign Victor Osimhen this summer?
“I’m more confident that the move will happen now because it would make the Armando Broja deal make sense. If Chelsea know that they’re likely to get a deal done for Osimhen before the start of next season, and they know he’s coming, then that would make this crazy decision look like a sensible one.
“If you know Osimhen is coming, then you can make money from the Broja deal, considering that they’ve received a large loan fee from Fulham, and in the bigger picture, it starts to look like a good deal in the wider scheme of things. For those reasons, I’m more confident about Osimhen heading to Chelsea now than I was two weeks ago.”
Was Liverpool’s defeat to Arsenal on Sunday a proper hammer blow to their Premier League title prospects in your opinion?
“Not really because they’re still top of the table and they’re still the team to beat. The most worrying thing was the performance and Liverpool have been up and down all season, but they’re top of the league because they’ve been able to win when they’ve played badly, as well as winning when they’re playing well.
“On Sunday, Arsenal dominated from start to finish and Liverpool probably couldn’t believe that they went into half-time level. They got back into the game via a crazy moment. Realistically, the game could have ended up 3-0 or 4-0 and it probably should have been.
“Arsenal were good and when their top players are at their best, then they’re hard to peg back. Liverpool are still well in the Premier League title race though, of course they are.”
What are your thoughts on Martin Ødegaard’s celebration after Arsenal’s victory over Liverpool on Sunday?
“It was over the top, that’s for sure, but in Ødegaard’s defence, he played very well and he was enjoying himself. Unfortunately now, people do anything to get a hit on social media or be the talk of the town and it was probably a bit of that in Martin’s case. He was probably a bit excited and wanted to do something funny, knowing that he’s going to get the attention that comes with it. I wouldn’t have been doing that, put it that way.”
Do you believe Jürgen Klopp’s departure from Liverpool is going to have a detrimental effect on your former club?
“Liverpool are going to struggle to replace Jürgen Klopp in the same way that Manchester United have struggled to replace Sir Alex Ferguson, because managers of their quality don’t come around often. However, Liverpool are run very well and most of the foundations are already in place, so they’re in a position where they’re probably one of the few clubs where the manager and the coaching staff are the only things that they need to change.
“Everything is in place for a top manager to walk in, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will get the same results and challenge in the same way because Jürgen Klopp’s special. The club is very well run, but Jürgen is going to be very hard, if not impossible, to replace.”
Do you believe Liverpool without Jürgen Klopp is a prospect that becomes immediately less attractive for prospective signings?
“Any player coming in is going to want to know who the manager’s going to be, don't they? Jürgen Klopp pulls people in. That’s a fact and that’s what the best managers do. José Mourinho did the same thing. They’re examples of managers that top players want to play for. If Liverpool try and sign a top player in the summer, then the player will want to know who exactly is going to replace Jürgen Klopp and who’s coming in with them. You need to excite the players enough to encourage them to move to Liverpool and obviously the club is a huge draw for players in its own right, but knowing who the manager is going to be is also very important.”
You’ve previously told us that you “could understand why” Kylian Mbappé would want to join Liverpool and in the last week following Jürgen Klopp’s announcement he will be leaving Liverpool at the end of the season, Mbappé to Real Madrid rumours continue to gather at a fast pace. Do you believe this is a sign that Mbappé was considering a move to Liverpool under Jürgen Klopp or do you believe the timing of these rumours are purely continental?
“I’m unsure. Real Madrid are always going to be Real Madrid aren’t they? They’re always going to attract the big names, regardless of who their manager is because they’re one of the most iconic clubs in the world, so I’m not surprised that he wants to go there. What player wouldn’t? Maybe the uncertainty surrounding who’s going to manage Liverpool next season is the reason why Mbappé wouldn’t be prepared to take the risk of moving to Anfield.
“If he goes to Real Madrid, he will be the best player in La Liga, live in Madrid and will never have to look back. You have that option, or you can go to Liverpool and not know what the next 18 months holds for you. Liverpool are a very difficult club to say no to, but this scenario is a bit different when you take the change of manager into consideration.”
Do you believe Xabi Alonso will be the next manager of Liverpool and do you believe he’s the best man for the role?
“I think it would certainly be a good choice. The right choice is something that nobody knows right now. Whichever manager comes to Liverpool next is going to be in for a super hard job and they’re going to need time.
“Being an ex-legend of the club and fans' favourite will mean that Xabi’s given time, which doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s going to be successful, but I think the fans will have more patience with him and give him more leeway than they would with a manager that doesn’t already have an affiliation with the club. So from that side of it, I think it could be a good option.
“He’s doing a fantastic job at Bayer Leverkusen and he’s got the minerals for it, he’s a great lad, the players would love him and he would get them playing good football, I’m sure. We don’t know if he will be successful, or how much time he would need to eventually become successful, but I definitely think the fans would give him more time than any other potential candidate.”
Is there an outsider for the job that you would tip as a serious candidate for Liverpool to consider?
“I don’t know. It's such a hard situation because any manager that goes in next is essentially putting their head in a guillotine. If they maintain the same level of success, people will say, ‘as you should do because you’ve inherited a great team in a good moment’, so they almost expect it, so you’re potentially setting yourself up to fail. For this reason, I think this will put a lot of the big names off. It’s almost like the next manager will have to come in and take one for the team.”
Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah’s contracts both expire in 2025. Do you have serious worries that either of them will be considering their futures once Jürgen Klopp departs? Do you believe we could see a potential exodus of players this summer from Liverpool?
“I don’t believe we will see a big exodus at Liverpool this summer but put it this way, if the contract situations don’t get sorted now, which they won’t do because the players are going to want to know what’s going on, if they have a bad start to next season, then a year from now we will be discussing about them having six months left on their contracts. If that happens, then Liverpool will be in trouble.
“It’s a really hard situation because Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mo Salah can attract interest from any club they want and they don’t have to take a risk. If Liverpool have a bad season following Jürgen Klopp’s departure, then we could potentially see an exodus next summer.
“Let’s be real, who’s not going to take Trent Alexander-Arnold or Mo Salah on the cheap? I think the start of next season is going to be absolutely huge for Liverpool and these players are going to have to buy into their next manager’s vision if they’re to commit to signing a new contract at Anfield.”
As a former right-back, how highly do you rate Conor Bradley and do you believe his emergence will result in Trent Alexander-Arnold pushing into Liverpool’s midfield on a permanent basis?
“First of all, I’ve been massively impressed with Conor Bradley. He looks very professional and looks like he’s been playing at this level for a long time. He looks fantastic and hopefully he maintains that level because he has not looked out of place at all, so that is great to see.
“It’s not that I don’t want to see Trent move into midfield, but I just don’t want that to be the first option. He’s a world-class full-back, he’s great in midfield when he needs to be, but again, I think it’s another option for the team to have. Conor kept him out of the team not so long ago, so it’s another good option to give Trent a bit of a rest from time to time and in certain games you can put Trent in midfield and Conor in right-back, so that’s a fantastic option to have as well.
“I don’t think it’s a fact that Trent will play in midfield more often because the kid is doing great. I think it will still be a rotation between the two because while he has been doing fantastic, Conor’s only been in the team for a few months and he’s still so young. It’s a manager’s dream really.”
According to the Daily Mail, your former gaffer José Mourinho reportedly wants to be the manager of Manchester United once again, believing that he has unfinished business at the club and is said to be eager to work with INEOS. Do you believe this could be a successful appointment by Manchester United?
“He’s obviously a fantastic manager and regardless of whether there’s any substance to these rumours or not, there’s definitely some unfinished business between himself and Manchester United because he doesn’t usually go to these sorts of clubs and fails.
“If he went back, it would be no different to the club that he left in the first place because the squad still isn’t good enough and they’re not performing well on a consistent basis. However, Manchester United is still a giant of a football club and on paper, their team looks pretty bloody good, but something isn’t right there.”
Mourinho is just behind Roberto De Zerbi and Michel Sanchez in the betting markets to become the next Chelsea manager. Do you believe reappointing Jose could give the whole club the lift it needs?
“José going back to Chelsea seems more believable than him returning to Manchester United. He would certainly get the players attention and I think it could give fans and the club a lift but it doesn’t change all the issues that are affecting them at the moment. There’s still a lot of uncertainty going on at Chelsea and even a man like José can’t fix all those issues overnight. It’s not like the situation at Liverpool where they’re looking to replace one good manager with another because at Chelsea there are an awful lot of things that need fixing in the background, but the fans would love it if he returned.”