There are plenty of things that endear you in a face-to-face meeting with Mauricio Pochettino. The warm welcome, the calm but playful demeanour, the passion and spirit.
The fact he can wistfully joke around with his cap turned backwards, like a smiley schoolboy, before snapping into serious interview mode.
But what’s most fascinating, to this journalist at least, is how driven and committed he is to the Chelsea project, however difficult the mandate. That’s to be expected, you might say, because he’s the manager, but not all leaders steer their ships with the same level of unwavering belief as Pochettino does.
This is a venture that clearly means a lot to the 51-year-old. He speaks like a manager who has been part of the fabric for far longer than the six months, or 173 days, he’s actually been in west London.
In many ways, Pochettino and Chelsea are the perfect fit. A manager with a proven track record in the Premier League, one who is known for favouring and nurturing young talent, and who can cope with the demands of a club with expectation and status. Arriving directly from PSG – one of the most difficult jobs in club football – teaches you that much.
Poch favouring youth
Chelsea have youngest average age starting XI (24y, 356d) in the Premier League despite 39-year-old Thiago Silva starting 16 games.
But progress has been a little slower than some would have expected, not least Pochettino himself. Rather than stagnant, the Argentinian describes Chelsea’s development as “delayed”, but has an absolute belief that the pathway being trodden is the right one for future success.
“We wanted today to be in a different position on the table, of course, I cannot say false,” Pochettino began in an exclusive chat with Sky Sports, sitting forward in his chair to emphasize sincerity, his cap returned to its regulation setting.
“I have to be really honest and say I am upset – not frustrated because we knew this was going to be tough, but the circumstances have not been kind.
“Injuries make us to be a little bit delayed, and not progress in the way we wanted to, that is why we are late in our way to achieve things. I have no doubt we are going to be late, but we are going to perform and win games, and be in the position we deserve to be.”
Pochettino’s side have created the second-most ‘Big Chances’ in the league this season (55) – but also most missed (35).
The date of this particular sit down, at Chelsea’s Cobham training base in a small side room adjacent to the immaculately lawned training pitches, happened to coincide with one of Pochettino’s more fruitful weeks in charge.
As acknowledged, winning streaks are yet to feature as part of the former Tottenham manager’s reign, but two such occurrences in the space of three short days have provided welcome reprieve. Could this be Pochettino’s turning point?