Sport

BREAKING: Ben White was an unsung hero for Arsenal in Liverpool win

Mauricio Pochettino is staring down the barrel at Chelsea.

That Chelsea performance alone was a sackable offence for Mauricio Pochettino, who’s staring down the barrel at Stamford Bridge, where Moises Caicedo is perhaps the greatest example of his failings.

Chelsea fans are more defensive of Moises Caicedo than any of their other below par recruits over the last 18 months. His extraordinary transfer fee, the stunted opportunity to rub his decision to choose Chelsea in the face of Liverpool fans and his displays this season compared to long-term target Declan Rice’s for Arsenal combine to make Blues fans particularly prickly and thin-skinned when it comes to criticism of the Ecuador international.

They’re sticking up for a player who’s been on the end of significant enough abuse to delete his X account, and credit to them. But Caicedo isn’t making things easy for his guardians, so oftengiving with one hand and taking away with the other, as he did on Sunday.

Chelsea X as good as blew up as Caicedo slipped a perfectly weighted through ball into Cole Palmer’s path for the forward to open the scoring. ‘That’s what £115m buys you’ they crowed for under three minutes, before his detractors were handed the chance to ratio any positivity on a plate similar to the one the ball had been presented to Wolves on by Caicedo.

Cue the freeze-frames from Caicedo-ites attempting to excuse the midfielder for being robbed of possession by pointing to a lack of support. Guys, he was the last midfielder, as he’s supposed to be, and simply shouldn’t get caught on the ball as he did. It was inexcusable.

As was his role in Wolves’ second goal, which was a lovely sweeping move that went up one side of the pitch, back, and then up the other side, before another fortunate deflection saw them take the lead. It was entirely deserved despite the stroke of good fortune, and from a Chelsea point of view, entirely preventable.

Ben Chilwell – hardly a renowned one-on-one defender – was left two-on-one and was beaten easily, as Thiago Silva attempted to play offside when he shouldn’t have and then failed to close Pedro Neto down as he burst into the box. But it was Caicedo’s part in the goal – or rather his lack of one – that caught the eye, by virtue of his good, bad and ugly performance up to that point.

He jogged behind Rayan Ait-Nouri into the box as the full-back got on the end of Neto’s pull back. It didn’t require skill, quality or awareness, just effort. It’s not good enough.

Moises Caicedo had another game to forget for Chelsea against Wolves.

But then that would be on the report cards of each and every Chelsea player after Sunday, and the majority of them for the season, with Pochettino’s excuses becoming more and more broad as his terrible tenure continues, with fewer and fewer fans buying into a project doomed to fail thanks to its entirely flawed blueprints.

Boos rang out at Stamford Bridge, both at half-time and after the final whistle, on the back of a comically disjointed performance from a team that lacked any cohesion either in defence or attack, save for the move which led to Palmer’s goal. Matheus Cunha scored a hat-trick, FFS.

They are so easy to play against, with opposition teams not needing to be incisive or patient to break through. Ironically, the same laborious, unimaginative build-up play that’s been the customary method of attack for Chelsea this season would be more than enough to get past their own feeble defence.

The owners handed him an incredibly difficult job, but just as the performances of these players are inexcusable, so is Pochettino’s management of them. The odd poor display would be understandable, but even with such a young group of players, there should be an upward trend. They’re getting worse, seemingly owing to a combined lack of motivation and direction – both of which are obviously within Pochettino’s purview.

The question the Chelsea owners will now be asking themselves is can Pochettino lead the club back into the top four next term, because they quite simply cannot afford not to be in the Champions League come the 2025/26 season.

Looking both at this display and the season in general, it’s very hard to see that happening. Individuals haven’t improved, the collective are a collective in name only and something needs to change, with the manager the easiest and cheapest something of all.

We would doubt whether any available manager could do what Pochettino hasn’t managed to, but Todd Boehly and Clearlake – having been through this situation with Graham Potter – know that when the fan tide turns against a Chelsea manager they can’t be seen to do nothing. Pochettino is staring down the barrel.