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Who Should Be The Next Chelsea Manager And Replace Mauricio Pochettino at Stamford Bridge?

With Mauricio Pochettino departing Chelsea, we examine the top candidates to succeed him. Is the position a poisoned chalice, or could one of these contenders restore the Blues to their former glory?

As night follows day, Chelsea find themselves in search of a new manager after parting ways with Mauricio Pochettino on Tuesday.

licensed image 8 Who Should Be The Next Chelsea Manager And Replace Mauricio Pochettino at Stamford Bridge?
LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 02: Mauricio Pochettino, Manager of Chelsea arrives at the stadium ahead of the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on May 02, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images) (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Despite a turbulent season at Stamford Bridge, the former Tottenham boss seemed to be guiding a young, albeit expensively assembled, team in the right direction.

The 2023-24 campaign saw Chelsea suffer heavy defeats, including 4-1 losses to Newcastle United and Liverpool and a 5-0 thrashing by Arsenal. However, the Blues ultimately finished in a respectable sixth place in the Premier League. Notably, from February 5th onward, only Manchester City and Arsenal matched Chelsea’s points tally.

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Pochettino also revitalized Chelsea’s home form. Between mid-March and mid-November 2023, the team managed just one win in 14 league games at Stamford Bridge (D7 L6). However, they went on to win 10 of their next 12 home matches (D1 L1), culminating in a 2-1 victory over Bournemouth on the final day.

After winning their last five league games of the season, the future looked promising for Chelsea and Pochettino. However, on Tuesday, the club announced that they had “mutually agreed to part ways” with the Argentine.

Reportedly, the owners are now seeking a young coach to continue their ambitious project. Here, we examine some of the leading candidates to become the next manager and take on the challenge in west London.

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Read More: Arne Slot Heading to Liverpool: Tactical Analysis and the Potential to Transform the Reds into a Dominant Force Again

De Zerbi’s Blueprint: A Potential Path to Excitement at Stamford Bridge

Bookies’ favorite Roberto De Zerbi has a head start in the race for the Chelsea managerial position, partly due to his previous connection with Brighton.

Chelsea’s recent history includes hiring former Brighton manager Graham Potter in September 2022 and acquiring several Brighton players like Marc Cucurella, Moisés Caicedo, and Robert Sánchez. Additionally, Potter brought five of his coaching staff along with him. Given this trend, another raid on the south coast club seems plausible.

De Zerbi recently resigned as Brighton boss at the end of the 2023-24 season. The 44-year-old Italian quickly found success at Brighton, leading them to their highest-ever sixth-place finish and their first qualification for European competition in his first season.

Playing Styles Compared in the Premier League 2023 24 Season. Image Credits Opta Analyst Who Should Be The Next Chelsea Manager And Replace Mauricio Pochettino at Stamford Bridge?
Playing Styles Compared in the Premier League 2023-24 Season. Image Credits – Opta Analyst

Although Brighton started the 2023-24 season strongly, winning five of their first six games and sitting third in the table in late September, their form became inconsistent, and they finished in the bottom half. Brighton’s 18 points in 2024 were only better than Burnley (13), Nottingham Forest (12), Luton (11), and Sheffield United (7).

Despite this, De Zerbi’s credentials are evident. He is a bold, progressive manager who has overachieved at clubs like Sassuolo and Brighton, both of which operated with much smaller budgets than Chelsea. His Brighton side played a brave, possession-based style, often playing out from the back. Last season, Brighton’s goalkeepers had the lowest average goal-kick distance in the league, and only Manchester City maintained possession longer than Brighton.

With Chelsea’s vast budget, De Zerbi could bring his attractive and entertaining style to Stamford Bridge. However, Chelsea fans would need to be patient with his approach, which can sometimes lead to defensive vulnerabilities. Last season, Brighton conceded 60 shots from opposition high turnovers, the seventh-highest in the division, more than Arsenal, Liverpool, and Man City.

Moreover, games involving De Zerbi’s Brighton often saw high goal counts, trailing only Tottenham, Newcastle, Liverpool, Man City, and Arsenal since he took charge.

Could De Zerbi bring goal-filled excitement to Stamford Bridge? It certainly seems possible.

Kieran McKenna: A Rising Star in Managerial Circles

The youngest candidate on this list, 38-year-old Kieran McKenna, has done a sensational job since stepping into his first managerial role with Ipswich Town.

When the former Manchester United coach took over at Portman Road in December 2021, Ipswich Town was 12th in League One. McKenna guided them to promotion to the Championship the following season, ending the campaign with 101 goals scored—the first time the Tractor Boys had recorded 100+ goals in a league season since 1960-61 under Alf Ramsey. They also became the ninth team in English Football League history to win eight consecutive league matches without conceding, the first since Manchester United in February 2009.

Remarkably, McKenna achieved another promotion in the 2023-24 season, taking Ipswich back to the Premier League for the first time since 2001. Since his appointment, no team in the EFL has won as many games as Ipswich’s 67.

McKenna prefers his team to dominate possession but adapted his style for the step up from League One to the Championship. Ipswich averaged 59.8% possession in League One, which reduced to 52.9% in the Championship, yet they maintained consistently impressive results. They remained prolific in attack, with only three teams in England’s top four divisions attempting more than their 719 shots this season.

Ipswich Twons Age Matrix in the Championship 2023 24 Season. Image Credits Opta Analyst Who Should Be The Next Chelsea Manager And Replace Mauricio Pochettino at Stamford Bridge?
Ipswich Twon’s Age Matrix in the Championship 2023-24 Season. Image Credits – Opta Analyst

McKenna has shown faith in young players, including Chelsea loanee Omari Hutchinson, although this season he predominantly relied on more experienced players. Only Hutchinson and Harry Clarke, both under 24, played at least 20% of the minutes.

Brighton’s reported interest in McKenna as a potential replacement for De Zerbi suggests Chelsea might also be considering him. Instead of taking talent from Brighton, Chelsea might look to get ahead and bring in McKenna directly.

Rúben Amorim: Another Emerging Talent on the Managerial Scene

Rúben Amorim, another candidate yet to celebrate his 40th birthday, has been generating buzz in recent weeks. He was linked with the vacant Liverpool job before Arne Slot was appointed and also admitted to having talks with West Ham about replacing David Moyes.

Amorim has recently celebrated another Primeira Liga title win with Sporting CP, bringing him into the spotlight during a summer of significant managerial changes across Europe. Sporting paid a significant fee to acquire the young coach from Braga in 2020, a decision that raised eyebrows at the time. However, in his first full season in Lisbon, he led Sporting to their first league title in 19 years.

Sporting CPs Zones of Control. Image Credits Opta Analyst Who Should Be The Next Chelsea Manager And Replace Mauricio Pochettino at Stamford Bridge?
Sporting CP’s Zones of Control. Image Credits – Opta Analyst

With a squad featuring current Premier League stars Pedro Porro and João Palhinha, Amorim’s Sporting lost just once in their 34 league games, finishing five points ahead of Porto. This season, they won the title again, securing 29 wins in 34 games (D3 L2) and surpassing Benfica in the process.

Overall, Amorim has managed 147 Primeira Liga games for Sporting, achieving 111 wins, 22 draws, and 14 losses—a better record than Porto (W109 D24 L14) and Benfica (W104 D24 L19) during the same period.

Under Amorim, Sporting has averaged 60.3% possession in the Primeira Liga. They conceded just 20 and 23 goals in his first two full seasons, respectively, although this rose to 32 goals last season when they finished fourth. This season, they conceded 29 goals, slightly more than Benfica (28) and Porto (27), but scored an impressive 96 goals, with Viktor Gyökeres netting 29 of them.

Chelseas Zones of Control. Image Credits Opta Analyst Who Should Be The Next Chelsea Manager And Replace Mauricio Pochettino at Stamford Bridge?
Chelsea’s Zones of Control. Image Credits – Opta Analyst

Amorim has placed trust in young players, especially in defense. Gonçalo Inácio (22), Ousmane Diomande (20), and Eduardo Quaresma (22) regularly featured in his back three. However, he didn’t start any midfielder or forward under the age of 22 in the league this season.

Given his impressive track record and focus on youth development, Amorim is a strong candidate to take the reins at Chelsea.

Tuchel’s Legacy at Chelsea: A Complex Evaluation

Assessing Thomas Tuchel’s previous stint at Chelsea presents a mixed picture.

Taking over in January 2021 with Chelsea 10th in the Premier League table (though only six points off the top four), Tuchel led them to Champions League glory and secured a top-four finish in an impressive first few months at Stamford Bridge. During that initial period, only eventual champions Manchester City had a better Premier League record than Tuchel’s Chelsea.

However, his tenure wasn’t without its challenges. Despite his strong start, Tuchel struggled to turn Chelsea into Premier League title contenders and lost three domestic cup finals in less than two years, including the 2021 FA Cup final against Leicester. While he maintained a respectable win rate of 60% in all competitions, his time at Chelsea didn’t yield as many trophies as expected.

licensed image 4 1 Who Should Be The Next Chelsea Manager And Replace Mauricio Pochettino at Stamford Bridge?
MADRID, SPAIN – MAY 08: Thomas Tuchel, Head Coach of Bayern Munich, speaks to the media at full-time following the team’s defeat in the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg match between Real Madrid and FC Bayern München at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on May 08, 2024 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by S. Mellar/FC Bayern via Getty Images)

Additionally, reports indicated that a poor working relationship with the club’s new ownership contributed to his sacking in September 2022. Whether he would be willing to return to Chelsea under the current circumstances is uncertain.

Tuchel also faced criticism for the style of play his teams exhibited. While his Chelsea side was defensively solid, conceding an average of just 0.9 goals per game over his 63 Premier League matches, they often struggled to create enough chances despite dominating possession. Chelsea averaged 62.2% possession, one of only three teams (alongside Manchester City and Liverpool) to surpass 55%, but needed 41 passes for every shot—an indicator of a somewhat ponderous attack, ranking fourth-highest among ever-present sides behind Leicester, Wolves, and Crystal Palace.

Given Chelsea’s current defensive vulnerabilities, Tuchel’s ability to shore up the backline could be beneficial. However, there are legitimate concerns about whether he could maximize the potential of Chelsea’s attacking talent, given his previous struggles to generate sufficient offensive output with a possession-heavy approach.

Whether a return to Stamford Bridge is in the cards for Tuchel is an open question, but his defensive acumen and previous success in the Champions League make him a candidate worth considering.

Thomas Frank: A Tactical Innovator with Ambitious Prospects

We’re not just including Brentford manager Thomas Frank because his name combines two of Chelsea’s most recent managers’ first names. He genuinely appears to be a sensible and potentially successful appointment.

Frank has consistently led Brentford to punch above their weight, demonstrating that a data-led approach with cohesive teamwork can yield positive results and overachievement. With greater resources, he could potentially elevate Chelsea to the next level.

Over his three seasons in the Premier League, Brentford ranks ninth for expected goals (xG) per 90 minutes (1.44) and eighth for xG conceded per 90 minutes (1.38). They are one of only nine teams—including the traditional big six, Newcastle, and Brighton—to have a positive xG difference during this period. Frank has transformed Brentford into a top-half Premier League team with top-half quality.

274QA6CZXJK7ZIPKQMRMXAKEYA Who Should Be The Next Chelsea Manager And Replace Mauricio Pochettino at Stamford Bridge?
Soccer Football – Premier League – Wolverhampton Wanderers v Brentford – Molineux Stadium, Wolverhampton, Britain – February 10, 2024 Brentford manager Thomas Frank celebrate after the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

Set-pieces have been a key factor in Brentford’s success. They ranked second for xG from set-pieces in the Premier League this season (15.7) and third behind Arsenal and Manchester City for xG conceded at set-pieces (8.6). His set-piece coach, Bernardo Cueva, is already heading to Chelsea this summer, so Frank would be well-prepared to succeed with a team that has struggled with dead-ball situations.

One potential stumbling block, however, is whether Frank would be willing to leave Brentford. He has expressed contentment with his current position, saying recently about links to Manchester United: “I am really happy where I am. [Brentford] is close to being the perfect club to be in. I can see myself being here for many more years. I am close to the owner, to the sports director, to everyone around the club. Brentford is a club where I really feel at home.”

The lack of job security at Chelsea might not appeal to him, given his strong connection and satisfaction with his current club. Nonetheless, Frank’s proven track record and tactical acumen make him a compelling candidate for the Chelsea managerial role.

Jose Mourinho, The Return of The “Prodigal Father”

Okay, yes, it’s implausible for numerous reasons. But wouldn’t it be captivating? Another return for ‘The Special One.’

José Mourinho has been without a club for four months since departing Roma earlier this year, presumably eager to dive back into management.

Where better to return than to the place where he’s most revered? It worked in 2013 when he came back, leading Chelsea to their fourth Premier League title—let’s just overlook how it ended.

Why couldn’t lightning strike twice? Plus, there’s something to be said for considering a manager solely because it would be amusing.

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