It has been a difficult first season as Chelsea boss for Mauricio Pochettino – but it could yet end with a trophy.
Pochettino was brought in after a terribly disappointing season for the Blues and hopes were high that he would quickly turn things around. However, another mid-table Premier League finish looks likely after a number of poor results under the Argentine.
And yet Chelsea are potentially just one game away from the Carabao Cup final – and face Championship side Middlesbrough in the semi-finals.
Most bookmakers – and at zakłady bukmacherskie you can find a comprehensive list of them – have Liverpool as strong favourites to win the competition. But Chelsea are favourites to see off Boro and, if they do, they can feel they have a fighting chance of beating Fulham or even Liverpool in the final.
Improvement up front
Chelsea have had problems at both ends of the pitch over the past year or so, but there are signs that things are coming together in attack.
Nicolas Jackson has struggled in front of goal but the return to action of Christopher Nkunku is a huge boost for Pochettino. The summer signing had to wait for his debut, having suffered a knee injury during pre-season, and in his recent appearances he has looked really exciting.
Cole Palmer also looks the part. The youngster, signed from Manchester City for £45m, is a fantastic prospect and his coolness on the ball and in front of goal is outstanding for such a relatively inexperienced player. His performance in the recent win at Luton was sublime and his goal underlined his class.
So with Chelsea finally looking like they pack and punch in attack, there’s every reason to think the second half of the season will be a big improvement on the first.
But some problems remain
On a less positive note, Chelsea’s defending continues to be a cause for concern.
At times it has looked like a season too far for Thiago Silva, with the 39-year-old having been off the pace and well short of his best in some games. Levi Colwill is establishing himself as a first-choice player and has obvious ability, but overall Chelsea’s defending has been very poor and their tendency to give away cheap goals has been a real problem.
Pochettino will surely be looking to change that in the January transfer window. The club spent big in the summer but the manager is keen to bring in more reinforcements, especially at the back.
The return of key players from injury would also be a big boost. Reece James continues to be plagued by injury problems and if he could stay fit for an extended period there is no doubt he would make a positive difference. Ben Chilwell’s return at left-back is also essential and, as Silva nears the end of his career, a fit-again Wesley Fofana might well be the man to fill the void in the longer term.