Jesus Perez sits in the same seat for every Mauricio Pochettino press conference. Front row. Far left. Out of shot so those watching Chelsea TV would never know he is there. Silent until a nod from his friend tells him he needs help articulating what he is trying to say.
Chelsea’s assistant coach had to stay alert on Tuesday because this was half an hour of pure ‘Poch’, still smiling, still joshing, still conjuring up wild metaphors in the way that only he can.
One particularly energetic monologue saw Pochettino explain — with a little encouragement from the ever-polite Perez — why he is not going grey amid all the chaos surrounding his club.
‘It’s genetic,’ Pochettino said with that trademark twinkle before continuing: ‘Football is my passion, not my job.
‘Sometimes we say “job” but it is the wrong word. If I don’t think like this, I need to go in another position — become a sporting director or chief executive or president and put money from my pocket. Being a coach, I need to keep a sense of why I am here.
Pressure is beginning to mount against Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino amid their bad form
With the help of assistant Jesus Perez (right), Pochettino hopes to turn his fortunes around
‘We do not suffer because of business. We only have to be focused on playing football. You cannot be affected because of the stock market in New York or Tokyo, or the weather in I-don’t-know-where because the farms cannot grow the cereals. That is why I keep my hair like this.
‘It’s because I do not suffer for things that I am not in charge of. I only suffer for sport, for football, to try to improve the players, to give them a good platform to win games.
‘You can win or you can lose. If there is no rain at my farm, I cannot grow the crops. You kill the business of my family on the farm and they need money. That is stress. With that, you can lose your hair. But I cannot lose my hair because the opponent was better than us.’
Pochettino apologised for not having a greater grasp of English to explain it better — he put two fingers to his temple and pretended to pull the trigger, saying it would have been a calamity if the cameras were still switched on — but we got the gist. He was saying he can only control the controllable and if given time, he is sure he will get Chelsea to where they want to be.
There was no sense of panic in Pochettino, despite Sunday’s 4-2 home defeat by Wolves and the questions which followed yesterday. Do the owners still trust you? Yes, he said, revealing they had sent him a message of support ahead of tonight’s FA Cup fourth-round replay at Aston Villa.
Is your relationship with Thiago Silva now in ruins after his wife, Belle, seemingly called for your sacking on social media? No, he insisted, claiming they had cleared the air.
Do you stand by your statement that this £1billion team is ‘not good enough’ to finish in the Premier League’s top six after the Wolves loss?
Chelsea struggles this season showed no signs of letting up after a 4-2 home loss to Wolves
Pochettino watched on as his side were undone at Stamford Bridge
Pochettino has explained how Chelsea are a young team who need time to mature
The man with ‘MP’ on his tracksuit did his best impression of a politician as he backtracked on those comments.
‘I said, “Today, we were not good enough”,’ Pochettino claimed, saying it was taken out of context. ‘I had to explain to my wife, because she says, “Why are you saying he’s not good enough? Look at this guy, he’s world champion!”, and then I say, “I never said that!” I need to show her the post-match press conference. It is the reality.’
A more petulant manager might have got the hump with Tuesday’s line of questioning. Maybe even make a hasty exit, like Jose Mourinho when he lost ownership of this room.
It is spacious enough, this auditorium inside Chelsea’s training ground, but when the interrogation is not the nicest, it is understandable why the walls can feel like they are closing in on you.
Yet Pochettino smiled his way through yesterday’s press conference, conducting it all with his usual charisma. When asked about winger Mykhailo Mudryk responding to one keyboard warrior by challenging his critic to a game of one-v-one for £10,000, Pochettino looked puzzled.
Perez was called upon for clarification, as Pochettino then explained how Chelsea are a young team who need time to mature. ‘It’s like building a house,’ he said. ‘If you make a mistake, after bringing in a nice sofa and furniture, but the house starts to move and oh (it falls down). Come on! We need time.’
Standing up to leave, he asked one final favour of the journalists. ‘I trust you to translate this idea to the fans to be a little more patient,’ he said.
Pochettino’s favourite Harry Kane goal for Tottenham was scored away at tonight’s opponents Villa in November 2014. Not because it was a beautiful strike — it was a deflected free-kick in the 90th minute to secure a 2-1 win — but for the fact that it saved him from the sack.
Pochettino is hoping one of his current Chelsea crop will stand up tonight, too, as he looks to buy the time that this project needs to prosper.
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