- Mauricio Pochettino fuelled Chelsea chaos by threatening to cancel days off
- Newcastle United beat Chelsea 4-1 in a lively encounter at St James’ Park
- IAN LADYMAN: It’s nonsense to care where Chris Kavanagh was born – IAKO
Fifteen minutes after full-time, Chelsea’s unused substitute Alex Matos stood on the touchline at the entrance to the tunnel and asked a member of backroom staff, ‘Are the others coming out? Where are they?’. He was told they were in the dressing-room.
The conversation continued, all fairly laid-back and jovial. Matos, 19, then asked the coach if it was right the squad now had two days off. Yes, it was. The player seemed surprised. Finally, a couple of other substitutes joined him and they set off on a jog around the St James’ Park pitch. They were moving quicker than some of their team-mates had done earlier.
Meanwhile, in a television interview room, Mauricio Pochettino was saying: ‘We were talking in the dressing room after the game. We should go directly to the hotel and sleep, and start to train early in the morning and not have a day off.’
A few hours later and the club were keen to stress this was all a misunderstanding and the players’ time off had not been cancelled. It was a confused and clumsy postscript to a confused and clumsy performance.
Was Pochettino’s threat an empty one all along, or had he changed his mind? Or was it all just lost in translation? And why weren’t those taking part in the post-match exercise out on the pitch with young Matos when, it would appear, they should have been? The forward was yawning as he waited in the cold.
Mauricio Pochettino said two days off were cancelled after Chelsea’s 4-1 defeat to Newcastle
Chelsea’s unused substitute Alex Matos seemed surprised that the time off was still coming
The whole day, from kick-off to nightfall, felt as much like the wheels coming off as a bump in the road. Pochettino was supposed to bring calm and competence to a club for whom chaos had become the norm. But this could easily have been Graham Potter or Frank Lampard in charge.
Indeed, 12 months ago in the same fixture, Newcastle beat Potter’s Chelsea 1-0. Mail Sport labelled the Blues ‘a bunch of misfits’ that day. Has anything changed? Yes, they have got worse, statistically and aesthetically. They had 21 points from 14 games a year ago. It is 16 from 13 now.
Chelsea came close to nicking a draw last season as the hosts defended their lead late on. This time, it was Chelsea sitting back in a bid to minimise the damage, most of which had been self-inflicted anyway.
Captain Reece James had already been sent off by this point. What does it say about the mindset of a team when its leader is booked for kicking the ball away and then shown a second yellow for tripping an opponent after a hopelessly heavy touch? James could have let Anthony Gordon go, stayed on the pitch and been available for next Sunday at home to Brighton.
Pochettino was watching from the stands as he served a touchline ban – another sign of the ill-discipline that continues to plague a club who have the Premier League’s worst disciplinary record. Six yellow cards and a red might look from afar as if Chelsea went down fighting here. They didn’t, and the most feisty display was Pochettino’s post-game take-down of his players, calling them ‘soft in every challenge’, ‘not ready to compete’ and questioning their ‘maturity, personality and character’. There was no misinterpreting those words. It’s little wonder he doesn’t want to see them for a couple of days.
Recent England debutant Cole Palmer was outshone by man-of-the-match and scorer of Newcastle’s fourth, Anthony Gordon, who can’t get in the Three Lions squad. Thiago Silva gave the ball to Joelinton for the third, while both the Brazilian and Benoit Badiashile went AWOL for Alexander Isak’s opener and Jamaal Lascelles’ headed second. Raheem Sterling had equalised with a fine free-kick in the first half, but it was a false dawn. Rather, the lights went out at half-time. Pochettino called it their worst performance of the season.
For Eddie Howe – without 13 senior players – it was, he said, the most satisfying win of his two years in charge. His side had looked organised and motivated. Chelsea, by comparison, were an uninspired mess. Still, at least they have a couple of days at home to reflect.
Eddie Howe said Newcastle’s win, despite injuries, was his most satisfying one in charge there
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