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Merson says: Chelsea are stuck and lacking direction

Paul Merson says Chelsea are a club stuck and lacking direction but the Sky Sports pundit believes Mauricio Pochettino should stay at Stamford Bridge because of a lack of alternative options.

Chelsea missed out on the chance of Carabao Cup glory on Sunday when they were beaten by a Liverpool side without a number of key players including Trent-Alexander Arnold, Mo Salah, Curtis Jones and Darwin Nunez.

Virgil van Dijk headed in the winner after 118 minutes of drama at Wembley, leaving the Blues to rue a number of spurned chances as they missed out on what Merson described as Chelsea’s “big chance” to lift some silverware.

Chelsea’s performance, particularly in extra-time, has been heavily criticised, with Sky Sports’ Gary Neville branding Pochettino’s side as “blue, billion-pound bottlejobs“, and while Merson doesn’t agree with the former Man Utd defender’s assessment, he was critical of the Chelsea project, questioning the direction the club is going in.

Read on for the Magic Man’s thoughts in full.

‘Chelsea are stuck’

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Highlights from the Carabao Cup final between Chelsea and Liverpool

You cannot see where Chelsea are going.

I said this months ago and I’ll say it again now, a lot of the players are not good enough to play for Chelsea Football Club, yet they are sitting on eight-year deals.

It’s not long ago that Chelsea won the Champions League. People talk about the success of the club like it was 20 years ago. They won the Champions League three years ago, but the club are still asking for patience from the fans.

It’s just not good enough.

You cannot see where Chelsea are going. I said this months ago and I’ll say it again now, a lot of the players are not good enough to play for Chelsea Football Club, yet they are sitting on eight-year deals.

Sky Sports’ Paul Merson

The main problem with Chelsea is that Pochettino has come into a club that has spent a lot of money to bring a lorry load of players in on eight-year contracts.

The people that bought these players in: what were you thinking? We need to know but I’ve never heard any of them give an interview. All I hear is Mauricio Pochettino having to justify it, but he never bought these players in. He just got the manager’s job and has had to deal with the situation he finds himself in.

But now they are stuck, and because of the mess they are in it looks like they will have to go and sell one of their best players in Conor Gallagher to get out of it. He’s come through the ranks, he’s a homegrown player and one of the club’s own, but he’ll make them a profit in terms of the Profit and Sustainability Rules. It’s shocking.

‘Chelsea didn’t bottle Carabao Cup final’

Sky Sports’ Paul Merson:

“When the game went to extra-time, my feeling was there was only going to be one winner.

“The youngsters came on for Liverpool and did well, but I thought Chelsea were going to dominate. I thought that was it, to be honest.

“However, Chelsea just never got going in that final 30 minutes of extra-time.

“I don’t buy into [Gary Neville’s] bottlejobs statement. Chelsea are 11th in the league, and they are in that position for a reason. It’s not bad luck.

“If it had been Arsenal in the final last Sunday and they’d have got beat, then I could understand it.

“Arsenal are a top team and they are flying at this moment in time. Arsenal would have expected to win but I’m not sure you can say the same about Chelsea. They do have good players. Individually they are decent players but as a team they are nowhere near good enough yet.”

‘Why the eight-year deals? No one has justified the policy’

Dejected Chelsea owner Todd Boehly in the royal box
Image: Dejected Chelsea owner Todd Boehly in the royal box at Wembley

What was the thinking behind eight-year deals? Why has no one from the club ever come out and told us what the thinking was behind it? The only thing I can think of is the club thought they were going to get a 10-year transfer embargo.

One thing is for sure, you cannot tell me anyone knows what will happen with a player over eight years. You cannot say what will happen in three years let alone eight.

Two years ago, Joao Cancelo at Manchester City changed the face of football. He was playing as a full-back and coming into midfield. He was getting forward and scoring goals. No one knew how to pick him up. He was absolutely amazing.

If you were on a quiz programme and were asked where he was now, you wouldn’t know. Where is he now? That was only two years ago remember.

Chelsea have these players for eight years. Eight years! No one has ever come out and justified the policy.

‘Get rid of Poch? Who would come in?’

Chelsea ultimately faded during extra time
Image: Pochettino shows his frustration as Chelsea ultimately faded during extra time at Wembley against Liverpool

There’s always talk about the manager at Chelsea.

We always say get rid of managers, but if Pochettino were to go, who would come in? That’s the problem.

Who’s about? Who would you take?

Chelsea is a huge football club. People will talk about Roberto De Zerbi and he has done brilliantly at Brighton.

However, there is a huge difference between Brighton and Chelsea. Brighton drew at home to Everton at the weekend and nothing is said. Meanwhile, Chelsea are 11th in the league and have been beaten by top-of-the-league Liverpool in a cup final and it’s headline news. Chelsea weren’t even favourites for the game, but it is a shock they haven’t won.

That’s the difference when you are managing a massive club. The scrutiny is on a different level.

Who are you going to bring in that can cope with that pressure? Bringing in Carlo Ancelotti to steady the ship and win a trophy is not going to help Chelsea at this stage.

The club needs a plan. The worrying thing is that they had one, but whoever came up with it doesn’t understand football.

Merson: Why did Gallagher come off? | ‘Chelsea will never get a better chance of a trophy’

Sky Sports’ Paul Merson:

“Chelsea played well in the game in parts. They had plenty of chances but Caoimhin Kelleher in goal for Liverpool was incredible. But consistency has been a problem all season and it was proven again on Sunday. They couldn’t sustain their performance level for long enough.

“Conor Gallagher was brilliant for Chelsea. He was full energy and running and was a big part of what Chelsea did well at Wembley.

“When he came off in extra-time, the only thing I can remember was seeing him and Ben Chilwell really stretching their calves at a Liverpool corner.

“The next thing I knew they were both off.
Gallagher was the one. He was the one full of running and driving Chelsea on. Chilwell was also good and I know he hasn’t had a lot of football, but them coming off didn’t make sense.

“This was Chelsea’s big chance. They aren’t getting into the Champions League next season. This was it. Of course, they are still in the FA Cup, but let’s be honest, with the likes of Man City and potentially a fully fit Liverpool side still in the hat for the latter stages, Chelsea don’t have much of a chance.

“Against a weakened Liverpool side this was their chance and Gallagher especially should have stayed on. The players needed to run themselves into the ground because will never get a better opportunity than they had on Sunday to win a trophy.

“If they played in the next 10 Cup finals, they’ll not have a better chance than they did against that Liverpool side.”

‘Chelsea job used to be the ultimate, who wants it now?’

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Gary Neville explains the comments he made about Chelsea after they lost the Carabao Cup to Liverpool

Being Chelsea manager used to be the ultimate job in football.

Going in at Chelsea, a manager knew they had every chance of winning a trophy.

Now, I don’t see people queuing up to take this job because managers look at certain things when they go into a club. Tim Sherwood said on Soccer Saturday the other day that when he went in at relegation-threatened Aston Villa, he knew he had the players to get out of trouble.

Managers aren’t taking jobs if they are looking at the team and not liking what they are seeing.

This is the problem for Chelsea. People will be looking at the club and thinking ‘what chance have you got’.

It’s just not a great job at the minute. You are stuck with players strolling around on eight-year deals. How do you get them going? Particularly when a lot of the players are not good enough in the first place.

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