Mauricio Pochettino claims there is more to come from Chelsea
Mauricio Pochettino insisted Chelsea have put the disappointment of last season behind them after watching his new-look team open their Premier League campaign with a 1-1 draw against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge.
The hosts endured a difficult start against Jurgen Klopp’s side and deservedly fell behind to a breakaway goal by Luis Diaz after 18 minutes, guided into the bottom corner from Mohamed Salah’s fine pass.
They were saved from going further behind when VAR intervened to rule out Salah’s strike for offside as Liverpool dominated for much of the first half.
But Chelsea slowly eased their way back and were level when defender Axel Disasi, making his first start, stole in to touch home from Ben Chilwell’s header eight minutes before the break.
VAR was called upon again to disallow Chilwell’s goal two minutes later, but thereafter Pochettino’s side settled and were a ready threat to Liverpool’s back line, with debutant striker Nicolas Jackson spurning the best chance when he fired over the bar from six yards.
Mauricio Pochettino reflected on a performance in which he felt his team showed the traumas of last season, when the club failed to challenge for silverware and finished a dismal 12th, had been exorcised.
“I agree from the beginning it was tough, it was difficult,” he said. “Liverpool were better after 15-20 minutes but we started to find our ways to play and our position and what we were working on. And after that, the performance was really good.
“We scored and after we showed a great performance. I think we deserved to win, we conceded only one shot on target against a team like Liverpool.
“(I am) so pleased. It is only the start, the beginning. I can say thank you to the players: said Mauricio Pochettino
“When we arrived here the first day, we don’t talk about the past, it is a long time ago. You need to move on, even if you are thinking about what happened a few seconds before, it moves on.
“The most important action in football is the next one and that is what we want to settle. We want to talk about the present and the future. We showed the belief and the team keep fighting.”
With the teams still locked in a battle to sign Brighton midfielder Moises Caicedo, the need for more steel and control was evident in both midfields as attack got the better of defence and the middle of the pitch appeared porous for much of the game.
Chelsea remain in pole position to win the race for his signature, with the Ecuador international believed to favour a move to west London over Klopp’s side.
Pochettino would not be drawn on the progress of any deal but confirmed that the club were still looking to reinforce in midfield before the end of the transfer window.
He was also keen to point to his team’s success in limiting the visitors to a single shot on target during the game.
“Today we concede only one shot on target and we concede a goal, against Liverpool,” he said. “We need good players and to improve the squad, yes, but that is not new and we are working very hard.
“It is about (trying) to find the right profile, the right player, but the team was solid. We concede only one shot on target against Liverpool but for sure we need to create more chances, to have the capacity to score more goals. I think it is the first step.”
The manager hinted that the decision to leave goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga out of the squad, with Robert Sanchez selected for his Chelsea debut, was down to reported interest from Real Madrid.
“The reason he has to explore different situations, different possibilities,” he said. “Yesterday we were talking and the decision is to have all the players who are committed to being in Chelsea for the season.”
Klopp said that he had no issue with the reaction of Salah when he was brought off during the second half.
The forward, who has scored in his first game of the season in each year of his Anfield career and struck the crossbar at Stamford Bridge, was visibly unhappy to be taken off as his side sought a winning goal, but the manager said he felt it was a natural response.
“I can understand because if Mo scored it would have been a new record for goals scored in the opening game but I didn’t think about that,” he said.
“We needed stability and we needed fresh legs. It was super intense for everybody. That’s all I can say about it. His reaction was absolutely OK.”