Gianfranco Zola comments on Mauricio Pochettino's departure

“Like a punch in my stomach” – Chelsea icon Gianfranco Zola comments on Mauricio Pochettino’s departure

Gianfranco Zola has admitted he can’t understand why Chelsea have parted ways with Mauricio Pochettino. The Argentine coach has left Stamford Bridge by mutual consent, just 10 months into a two-and-a-half-year contract.

The Blues announced Pochettino’s seemingly amicable exit on Tuesday (May 21) and the club’s decision took many by surprise. They finished a topsy-turvy season strongly with a sixth-placed finish, winning five consecutive games. The former Tottenham Hotspur coach guided them to UEFA Europa League qualification but his future was constantly the subject of speculation.

Chelsea showed vast improvement as the season progressed with the likes of the Premier League’s Young Player of the Year Cole Palmer and Malo Gusto impressing. Pochettino managed to get the best out of Moises Caicedo eventually after a stuttering start at Stamford Bridge for the Ecuadorian midfielder after a British transfer record £116 million arrival last summer.

Zola alluded to the west Londoners’ progress when reacting to Pochettino’s departure which he told talkSPORT felt like a ‘punch in his stomach’:

“Like everybody, I’m very, very surprised. I didn’t know anything like that. And yeah, like you said he was finally getting things working. And it’s been long. It’s been hard. I am trying to understand the reason. I don’t know why yet, but it’s very surprising. Finally, we saw it working, we saw it flowing, and this is a surprise to be honest, it is like a punch in my stomach. Really, I don’t know the reason yet so I can’t say more. But obviously, like every fan, I’m surprised.”

Pochettino had openly admitted that he could depart as Chelsea ventured towards the closing weeks of the Premier League campaign. He oversaw 27 wins, 10 draws, and 14 defeats in 51 games in charge. The club’s co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali are thought to want a young coach who won’t interfere with recruitment.

Chelsea believed Mauricio Pochettino’s training methods played a role in their injury crisis: Reports

Mauricio Pochettino is usually a popular figure with players and is renowned for his man-management, especially when working with youth. He earned plaudits for his transformation of Spurs during a five-year reign that ended in 2019, developing the likes of Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min. There were signs of this during his short Chelsea reign, especially the emergence of Alfie Gilchrist, 20, and Djordje Petrovic, 24.

However, The Athletic suggests the Blues had concerns about Pochettino’s training methods which coincided with an injury-ridden squad throughout the 2023-24 campaign. There are suggestions that complaints were made over the Argentine tactician reintroducing players from injury in a risky manner while training was said to have felt outdated and the former PSG boss always demanding 100%.

Pochettino appeared to hold a good rapport with players, especially judging by the squad’s response to his exit. Several of them including Palmer and Nicolas Jackson have posted on social media to express their regret seeing the Argentine head for the Stamford Bridge exit door.

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