Chelsea boss on why he is ‘proud’ of his squad, Christopher Nkunku’s goal – and Reece James’ red card for kick

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MAURICIO Pochettino said he was “so proud of the squad” after they moved into a Conference League qualification spot with their 2-1 win at Brighton & Hove Albion on Wednesday night. 

Cole Palmer scored his 22nd league goal of the season when he headed home Marc Cucurella’s cross in the 34th minute. 

Christopher Nkunku finished Malo Gusto’s cutback to make it 2-0 on 64 minutes before Danny Welbeck’s 97th-minute consolation after Reece James had been sent off for kicking Joao Pedro. 

Pochettino was asked in his post-match press conference if he felt like he had imposed his style on the team. 

“I don’t know,” Pochettino replied. “After 15 years working at Espanyol, Southampton, Tottenham, Paris Saint-Germain and now Chelsea, I think you know my style, no? In the way we want to play in possession and when we lose the ball. We have the trajectory in football.

“For me, it is not important about what I have to say, if you are happy and people are happy about the style we are playing. After it is to adapt to the circumstances of the squad. For sure, with time, if you ask another coach and have the possibility of 10 years or 25 years, or 22 like Arsene Wenger, or Sir Alex Ferguson, then of course it is your team. In that case we can say Pep Guardiola because every six months you have the power to invest or not to invest and bring players you want in. In one season, with all the circumstances, I am so proud of the squad.”

It was Nkunku’s first goal since January and third of an injury-hit season in just his tenth league game. 

“He was suffering a lot with injuries. He needs to now be consistent, consistent,” Pochettino said. “He was so tired at the end and played only 60 minutes. I am so happy for him because he was suffering and now he scores goals and be involved with the team. I am happy for him first and of course for the team because we are adding a player that is very important for us.”

James was playing in just his second game of 2024 and will now miss the last match, potentially damaging his chances of making Gareth Southgate’s England squad for Euro 2024. 

Pochettino said: “It’s difficult to give my opinion because I didn’t have time to see the action. But it’s painful [for us] because it’s a fantastic night of football and he’s a really important player. Now he is going to miss the next game and a few games next season.”


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