Mauricio Pochettino talks captaincy candidates, injury crisis, and lucky lemons
Pochettino spoke to the media on Friday afternoon (Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

When life gives you lemons ... put them on your desk as lucky charms. That's the philosophy that Mauricio Pochettino lives by, as he confirmed that a tradition he began at Tottenham Hotspur continues at Chelsea.

The head coach had previously explained the fruit bowl as a way to remove bad energy, and was asked whether he still used them now he had made the move to west London, with the 51-year-old noting that they seemed to be a little more long-term in their effects.

"Yes, but they started to work after two years in Tottenham," Pochettino said. "Give time to the lemons! It’s not a joke because I think we all believe, I think you believe also in the energy.

"If we want to have good energy I think we need to implement all the things that you personally believe [in]. I believe in the lemons. 

“But I think in Tottenham it started to work after one and a half, two years. The lemons are not magic!"

Prior to the bizarre tangent, Pochettino did address some of the most potent issues at Chelsea, one of which was the decision to make Conor Gallagher captain against AFC Bournemouth, rather than Thiago Silva or, instead, Enzo Fernandez.

<strong><a  data-cke-saved-href='https://www.vavel.com/en/football/2023/09/16/chelsea-fc/1156176-mauricio-pochettino-great-players-take-time-just-look-at-zinedine-zidane.html' href='https://www.vavel.com/en/football/2023/09/16/chelsea-fc/1156176-mauricio-pochettino-great-players-take-time-just-look-at-zinedine-zidane.html'>Mauricio Pochettino</a></strong> with <strong><a  data-cke-saved-href='https://www.vavel.com/en/football/2022/08/27/chelsea-fc/1121245-tuchel-admits-chelsea-were-lucky-against-leicester-but-praises-mentality-with-10-men.html' href='https://www.vavel.com/en/football/2022/08/27/chelsea-fc/1121245-tuchel-admits-chelsea-were-lucky-against-leicester-but-praises-mentality-with-10-men.html'>Conor Gallagher</a></strong> (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Mauricio Pochettino with Conor Gallagher (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

The Blues boss clarified that it was merely a matter of communication skills, and that Enzo's current lack of language skills in the country meant it made more sense for the Cobham academy product to lead the side out.

"If we need to communicate with the referee," he explained, "I think Conor [Gallagher] can do the job perfectly. For me, I prefer Conor than Enzo because I think Conor can speak more English.

"I think Enzo is still not ready to be captain because it’s not only about character, or attitude, you need to communicate with people, and if you don’t manage still the language properly, you cannot be captain. Maybe I’m wrong, but it’s my opinion."

Silva's dissatisfaction

The other possible choice for the captaincy was experienced Brazilian defender Thiago Silva, who some have suggested has been frustrated of late at Stamford Bridge, perhaps due to a difference in priorities between the player and direction of the club.

Having turned 39 years old on Friday, the centre back does not have too many years left of his playing career, so a few pointed to the fact he may be dismayed at the length of the time the so-called project appears to be taking.

<strong><a  data-cke-saved-href='https://www.vavel.com/en/football/2023/03/03/chelsea-fc/1139439-graham-potter-claims-suffering-is-necessary-to-succeed.html' href='https://www.vavel.com/en/football/2023/03/03/chelsea-fc/1139439-graham-potter-claims-suffering-is-necessary-to-succeed.html'>Thiago Silva</a></strong> speaks with <strong><a  data-cke-saved-href='https://www.vavel.com/en/football/2023/09/16/chelsea-fc/1156176-mauricio-pochettino-great-players-take-time-just-look-at-zinedine-zidane.html' href='https://www.vavel.com/en/football/2023/09/16/chelsea-fc/1156176-mauricio-pochettino-great-players-take-time-just-look-at-zinedine-zidane.html'>Mauricio Pochettino</a></strong> (Photo by Harriet Lander - Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)
Thiago Silva speaks with Mauricio Pochettino (Photo by Harriet Lander - Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Pochettino rubbished these rumours though, remarking that "Thiago knew very well the project last season when he extended his contract, I think he knew the project [was] for the future.

"But now you are asking me things that I cannot answer because when he extended the contract, I wasn’t here. He’s here and he wants to stay, and I want him to stay here. You’re asking that he wants to win now? But he knew the project that the club is delivering now."

'It's not the people working in the medical staff'

Another point of controversy surrounding the Blues of late has been the sheer extent of the number of injuries that have plagued the squad even at this early stage of the campaign, with up to 10 players potentially out for the game against Aston Villa.

Despite this, Pochettino reinforced his backing for the medical staff at the club, maintaining that it was unfair to criticise them for what has essentially been a very unfortunate period of bad luck,

"Before we arrived here, we did everything to try to have a clear idea why [there were] too many injuries last season also," he revealed. "It’s not the people working in the medical staff or the coaching staff – I think we need to respect these areas are very good professionals, qualified people, that is why they are working in football.

"It’s bad luck because Christopher [Nkunku] … twists his knee and is nearly three, four months out. From the beginning of the game he wasn’t tired, was fresh, was good, strong and that happened. And people say ‘that is why, because we need to do this…’.

"Come on, today the organisation in football, not only in Chelsea, they are super professional. And of course we need to show more respect to all the organisations in the club.

Absence from Europe's elite

With multiple other Premier League clubs playing in Europe this midweek, the fact that Chelsea are not set to take part in any of the three continental competitions was hit home even more.

The aforementioned Thiago Silva even put a post up on social media about it, with a singular crying emoji whilst tagging the Champions League account, and whilst Pochettino did not comment on it specifically, he admitted he too felt similarly.

"I didn’t see [the post]. I try not to follow the social media of the players because it’s better to stay away for myself. But for me it’s tough to watch [Champions League]. It’s really tough.

"For me, it’s a motivation to come here and train and push the players to say we need to improve. That is my main motive."

Nevertheless, and always the optimist, the Argentine manager offered a positive of the absence, in order to help deal with the apparent crisis the treatment room at the training ground.

He said: "I don’t say it’s lucky to not be involved in European competition because I’m not going to lie, I want to be involved also and to travel on Tuesday or Wednesday.

"Not Thursday. I like more Tuesday and Wednesday games! But I think because of the circumstances today, it’s a massive help for the team because of the circumstance of the squad, how many players we have out."

It has not been an easy start to the season for the Blues, with some tough results to begin the campaign. For now, all Chelsea supporters can do is hope Pochettino turns it around.

And for that, they need to hope those lemons start working soon.

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