We go into this derby with uneasy questions. Who’ll be worth their fee, Mudryk or Havertz? Have Chelsea finally found a foundation after buying enough players to field two separate squads? Is Pochettino the same manager who led Tottenham to the brink of a Champions League title, or is he the manager who failed to lead PSG to anything beyond the customary Ligue 1 title? Chelsea have managed to win three on the bounce, which is enough to suggest that they’re gaining momentum. Will they have enough to match our moxie after we’ve beaten Man City? That’s the tale of the tape…
Let’s be honest. It’s only a matter of time before Chelsea, full of young, promising players and free of European commitments, coalesce under Pochettino. Even if we admit that the Argentinian benefitted tremendously from having managed Tottenham during Kane’s prime, we’d also have to admit that he’s a good manager—even if the best evidence of that might date back to his time at Southampton or Espanyol, when he was clearly making his squads better than the sum of their parts. His challenge at the moment is to reprise that role when the parts are quite a bit pricier than they were at Tottenham, Southampton, or Espanyol.
Chelsea have won three in a row, it’s true, and that implies some kind of progress under Poch. However, a closer look insinuates that the Poch’s Pensioners may be living off of low-hanging fruit. Besting Brighton at home in the League Cup and then trouncing Fulham and Burnley away might look like momentum, but the Seagulls are looking threadbare and the Cottagers and Clarets will be fighting to stave off relegation. Pochettino is too good a manager to let Chelsea stagger to a similar fate, so it’s only a matter of time before he and that £1b in transfer fees find their footing.
It’s up to us to postpone that for another week.
At our end, of course, there’s the enigma that is Kai Havertz. Having failed to somehow secure the services of one Mykhailo Mudryk (which may or may not have resulted from the astronomical transfer fee that Shakstar Donetsk demanded), we turned to Havertz, who, like Mudryk, has struggled to justify his fee or the hype that preceded said fee. Each has scored just once for his new club, and it’ll be a test of each manager to see who can get the most out of his investment.
You probably see this coming. I see Arteta getting more—maybe much more—out of Havertz than Pochettino will get out of Mudryk. That’s not a reflection of either player so much as it is a reflection of both managers. Poch, for all of his high-falutin’ times, has n’t shown that he can make a squad more than the sum of its parts. Yes, he was at the helm when Tottenham reached that Champions League final, but he’s underwhelmed ever since. Compare that to the track record that Arteta, a novice manager, has already established.
The contrast is stark: Chelsea have spent volumes to buy any available player. Arsenal have spent quite a lot, it’s true, but the spending has been more-carefully targeted and planned. Will that be enough to see us through on a tricky fixture against a side loaded with potential?
We’ll go into Stamford Bridge riding on the confidence and momentum borne of besting Man CIty before the international break. Chelsea might be sitting 11th, but they’re gathering momentum of their own…