LONDON: Mauricio Pochettino has pleaded for more time as he scrambles for solutions to Chelsea’s mounting crisis. But how patient will the owners be?

The Blues, European champions only two years ago, are a lowly 14th in the Premier League table, just four points above the relegation zone, after one win in their first six matches.

Their latest setback was a 1-0 defeat against Aston Villa on Sunday, with Ollie Watkins scoring the winner after the dismissal of Chelsea defender Malo Gusto.

Last year, Chelsea mustered their lowest points tally of the Premier League era but they have made an even more dire start to the current campaign.

“Give me time,“ Pochettino pleaded after Sunday’s match, urging the club’s American owners to back him.

“They (the owners) are disappointed, they arrived at the club and are so excited to build a project.

“Of course they feel disappointed but at the same time they need to support the plan.”

Pochettino was confirmed as the new man in the Stamford Bridge hot seat in May -- becoming the third permanent boss since Todd Boehly’s consortium bought the west London club from Roman Abramovich in 2022.

Chelsea hailed the Argentine as a “winning coach, who has worked at the highest levels”.

Boehly backed his manager by bankrolling another huge spending spree during the summer transfer window, taking Chelsea’s outlay on new players in just over a year beyond £1 billion ($1.2 billion).

But the return on their investment has been pitiful during a period of churn and upheaval on and off the pitch.

- Goal-shy Chelsea -

Chelsea have mustered just five goals in their first six league matches -- and three of those came in the 3-0 win against newly promoted Luton.

They have failed to score in 13 Premier League matches in 2023 -- more than any other side.

The frustrated Pochettino bemoaned his team’s lack of luck in the Villa defeat, saying the only thing missing was goals.

“We need to be aware about what is going on but in some way we need to be calm because the team is creating, the team is alive, the team is fighting every single action,“ he said.

Pochettino can point to a lengthy injury list as a partial explanation for Chelsea’s blunt attack.

He lost France forward Christopher Nkunku to a serious knee injury in a pre-season friendly, but others including Mykhailo Mudryk, Nicolas Jackson, Raheem Sterling and Cole Palmer have failed to deliver.

The former Tottenham and Paris Saint-Germain boss will be painfully aware that Chelsea are not a patient club -- the hire-and-fire culture of the Abramovich era persists under Boehly’s leadership.

Chelsea sacked Thomas Tuchel in the early weeks of last season, and Graham Potter suffered the same fate in April, axed after less than seven months in charge when the club were 11th in the table.

Pochettino enhanced his reputation during his five-year stint at Tottenham, subsequently taking charge at PSG, where he won the Ligue 1 title.

However, he failed to meet PSG’s primary goal of winning the Champions League, leaving his managerial CV still relatively light on silverware compared with some of his Premier League counterparts.

Next up for Chelsea are in-form Brighton, who travel to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday for a League Cup third round tie.

They then face local rivals Fulham in the Premier League, with matches looming against Arsenal, Tottenham and champions Manchester City.

The Villa fans delighted in the discomfort of the Chelsea boss at the weekend, chanting that he would be “sacked in the morning”.

There are no signs that the club hierarchy are preparing to pull the trigger yet, but they may feel compelled to act soon unless there is a dramatic improvement. -AFP

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