I played for Chelsea legend who was just like Pochettino – he challenged us at free-kicks and went 18 MONTHS unbeaten


MYKHAILO MUDRYK looks like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders at Chelsea.

So it was nice to hear that his boss Mauricio Pochettino has spotted this and is working on changing that, by challenging him to a friendly game of crossbar challenge in training.


Mykhailo Mudryk is struggling to hit form on the pitchCredit: Alamy
Mauricio Pochettino has resorted to a crossbar challenge against the Ukrainian


Mauricio Pochettino has resorted to a crossbar challenge against the UkrainianCredit: Getty

What Poch is trying to do is loosen a player up who right now is so tense and rigid in everything he does on and off the pitch.

He clearly feels Mudryk is trying too hard, putting too much pressure on himself and is being too serious with his own game and his own failings or mistakes.

He wants to succeed so bad that he probably wants it too much. The tension builds and he isn’t free, mentally or physically, and that is showing in lacklustre performances.

I have no doubt Poch will have seen things in training, like his pace, his close control, his finishing, and think: ‘Why isn’t he doing this in games?’

So, he is trying to be a bit more personable.

If he is beating him, that’s fine. Mudryk is losing to a legend, not some random guy off the street. It can only do him good.

I remember Gianfranco Zola, during the 18 months he was in charge at Watford, challenged us to beat him at scoring free-kicks.

You would get five chances to see who could score the most from 25 yards over a set of mannequins acting as a wall.


The winner would get £50. During those 18 months, he went unbeaten. I never saw anyone even come close.

He would score at least three out of five.

He would take two steps and slap it up and over the wall, a bit like a backhand in table tennis.

So that may be Poch’s thinking. He is trying to build a relationship with the guy, build some camaraderie. Get him to enjoy competing, even if he beats him most of the time.

During his playing career, Poch probably did that at the end of every training session, smack a ball onto the bar, so he knows his range.

Above all else, Poch is a great man-manager. He gets the best out of the players he has, and this could be the start of yet another example of that.

Nicolas Jackson needs some of that man-management gold dust as well.

There is so much ego around a player joining a new club, particularly if there is a ‘curse’ to be broken. You want to be the one who breaks it.

Nicolas Jackson needs to start impressing Poch soon

Troy Deeney

Jackson would have turned up at Chelsea with incredible confidence.

His agent would have turned to him at some point and said: ‘You do know the last few strikers here have struggled? Romelu Lukaku, Fernando Torres, Alvaro Morata, Andriy Shevchenko’.

Jackson would have replied: ‘Yeah but they’re not me’. Yet it has been a few months and he hasn’t pulled up any trees.

It has got to be difficult for him, and Mudryk, especially because this squad — one of high energy and high talent — is struggling, and the club is a bit of a mess.

Jackson is a bit wild with his finishing, but other than that, he looks like he has a real appetite to score goals. Though he needs to start impressing Poch soon.

Just consider the names of the strikers he has managed recently: Harry Kane, Son Heung-min, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Lionel Messi. All world-class individuals and finishers.

Troy Deeney worked with Gianfranco Zola at Watford


Troy Deeney worked with Gianfranco Zola at WatfordCredit: Alamy
Zola took on the Hornets players at free-kicks in training


Zola took on the Hornets players at free-kicks in trainingCredit: Action Images – Reuters

So, whoever leads the line for Chelsea, they have to raise their standards.

Pochettino is used to working with elites.

What won’t help Jackson’s cause is getting booked for protesting at referees, which has resulted in him serving a suspension for the game at Fulham on Monday.

I can sympathise.

I have played six games for Forest Green in League Two and I got warned on Monday that I am one booking away from a suspension.

For what? I haven’t even made a tackle, but it is for arguing with referees and one for rolling the ball away five yards.

Someone needs to have a word with Jackson. Stop arguing, and focus on getting the goals his side desperately needs.

Poch is sticking with his No10


Poch is sticking with his No10Credit: Getty
It has not quite clicked for Nicolas Jackson yet


It has not quite clicked for Nicolas Jackson yetCredit: Richard Pelham / The Sun

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