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  • Mauricio Pochettino: Chelsea Youngsters Have Leadership Potential

Mauricio Pochettino: Chelsea youngsters have leadership potential

Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino believes young leaders will gradually emerge from his inexperienced squad, but they need time to develop.

With an average age of just over 23, the Argentinian has worked with the youngest group in this season's Premier League, and accused his team of lacking maturity in the aftermath of last weekend's 2-2 draw against bottom side Sheffield United.

Since taking over in May 2022, co-owner Todd Boehly and his Clearlake Capital consortium have pursued a transfer policy exclusively favouring players in their early 20s, while the squad's more experienced members - many of whom won Chelsea's last major silverware, the 2021 Champions League - have been moved on.

It has left a squad that has been accused of lacking balance, while at times this season there has been a notable absence of leadership on the pitch, as Chelsea have struggled to climb above mid-table.

But Pochettino, who has repeatedly defended the club's recruitment strategy, called for perspective, singling out former stars who took time to mature into leadership roles.

"John Terry was young," he said. "I don't believe when he was 18, 19 he was already a leader. (Those players) were in a different situation. Maybe they had some help when they were young, maybe they were in another project.

"We are in a project where 80 or 90 per cent of the players are young. They need to grow all together. They need some help. That's why we are here, to help them in this process to become leaders.

"We're talking about too many players that only arrived this season at Chelsea and in the Premier League."

An unbeaten run of seven games, their longest in the league for almost 18 months, has helped drag the team into contention for European qualification.

Victory over Everton at Stamford Bridge on Monday night will put them in a promising position to break into the top eight, likely to be sufficient to reach next season's Conference League, though they could also seal a Europa League place by finishing in the top seven or by winning the FA Cup.

Nevertheless, Pochettino urged caution, suggesting it is unfair to expect players - such as striker Nicolas Jackson, who has led the line virtually all season despite previously having played only 34 league games for former side Villarreal - to instantly assume the mantel of Chelsea greats.

The 22-year-old has scored 12 goals in 35 appearances since his £32million move from LaLiga, and recent performances have marked a significant improvement on his early weeks in west London.

"We talk about Nicolas Jackson," said Pochettino. "If we compare with (Didier) Drogba's first season, there's hope he can be a leader, but Drogba was a leader in his first season.

"People can find excuses and criticise, but I cannot pay attention. Sometimes you laugh about the opinions you receive from outside."

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