Why Chelsea loan star could be PERFECT under Pochettino next season

Cameron Smith
Cameron Smith
  • Updated: 22 May 2023 07:09 BST
  • 5 min read
Mauricio Pochettino, Chelsea, 2022/23
© ProShots

Mauricio Pochettino's appointment as Chelsea's new head coach continues to drag on, with the Argentine all but confirmed to take over once the 2022/23 season ends.

The former Tottenham Hotspur boss is already preparing for a major summer rebuild at Stamford Bridge and has begun discussions with the club regarding transfer targets as Todd Boehly plans another window of big spending.

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The Blues must offload talent first, however, with the likes of Hakim Ziyech, Christian Pulisic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek expected to depart. The futures of Mason Mount and Conor Gallagher remain up in the air, although Pochettino is reportedly desperate for Chelsea to extend Mount's contract amid interest from Liverpool.

READ: Chelsea fans drool over £7m Potter signing who could be ‘new De Bruyne’

But, despite Chelsea's need to sell players, there is one current loan star on their books that could fit in perfectly under Pochettino if the deal is made permanent.

Why Denis Zakaria would be perfect for Pochettino

Chelsea have been linked with countless new central midfielders this summer as they look to find a suitable partner for Enzo Fernandez. Southampton's Romeo Lavia has been touted, while Moises Caicedo and Manuel Ugarte are also being targeted. However, a solution could already be at the club.

Enzo has impressed since arriving from Benfica in January, but his suspect defensive nous and lack of mobility have caused several issues already. He has proven his immense value in possession, but the World Cup winner needs a more athletic, defensive presence alongside him in midfield.

READ: Chelsea face competition for Juventus' Dusan Vlahovic, says agent

Enzo Fernandez, Chelsea
© ProShots - Enzo Fernandez, Chelsea

This is something Pochettino is keen on too. In fact, the former PSG boss tends to prefer a double pivot with two more defensively-minded presences, rather than a ball-playing option. However, given the fee Chelsea spent on Enzo, he will not be cast aside.

At Spurs, Pochettino mostly deployed a double pivot of Mousa Dembele and one of Eric Dier or Victor Wanyama. Dembele added progressive carries and press resistance, but the pair's main task was to cover defensively.

Pochettino loves his full-backs to bomb forward and overlap, with Danny Rose and Kyle Walker utilised in this way at Tottenham. It worked particularly well on the right as Christian Eriksen would drift inside from his right wing berth, creating space for Walker to sprint on his outside and cross for Harry Kane and Dele Alli.

This ballsy attacking style caught Tottenham out on the counter attack numerous times, but it would've been a far more dangerous tactic without the double pivot - whose job was to cover the wide areas vacated by Rose and Walker.

Pochettino may veer away from this style at Stamford Bridge, but if he persists with his chosen way of playing, then Chelsea need an active ball-winner who is capable of covering wide spaces, but also has the ability to drive up the pitch.

N'Golo Kante fits this description perfectly, but the Frenchman is perennially injured and his contract is set to expire this summer.

There is, however, another option in the current Chelsea squad - Denis Zakaria.

Denis Zakaria celebrating with Raheem Sterling
© ProShots - Denis Zakaria celebrating with Raheem Sterling

The Swiss international has played just 600 minutes of football since moving to Stamford Bridge on loan last summer, but he has shown glimpses that he could play a role under Pochettino, if Chelsea are willing to sign him permanently.

It seems almost inevitable the Blues will look elsewhere as they identify Pochettino's next Dembele or Wanyama, but Zakaria's profile aligns well with how the former Spurs boss wants his double pivot to play.

Furthermore, his spell in the team following the World Cup was exceptional and it briefly looked as though Chelsea had finally found a Nemanja Matic replacement before Zakaria suffered a hamstring injury in mid-January.

The 26-year-old has the stamina to cover for Reece James and Ben Chilwell, while he crucially possesses an aerial presence and physical strength in a fairly timid Chelsea midfield. In addition, he displayed his qualities in possession during his spell in the side after the World Cup, and his progressive carries rank in the top 20 percent of midfielders in Europe's top five leagues this season.

Zakaria is unlikely to be given another chance to prove himself at Stamford Bridge, but he represents a brilliant option to have if Pochettino wants to recreate his Spurs side at Chelsea.

As an alternative, Ethan Ampadu could also be brought back into contention after loan spells at Venezia and Spezia in Serie A. Like Zakaria, the Welshman provides calmness in possession alongside his physical attributes and defensive presence, and while he may not be the most glamorous option, he would certainly work under Pochettino.

Read more about: Premier League, Chelsea, Denis Zakaria

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