Chelsea face Mykhaylo Mudryk dilemma as Pochettino new priority speaks volumes

Chelsea winger Mykhaylo Mudryk may feel that his career at Stamford Bridge is finally heading in the right direction after a recent improvement in form on the pitch, but Mauricio Pochettino’s new focus in the transfer market suggests there is still work to be done. The Argentine is reportedly eyeing up a big-money move for Napoli star Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, and that will increase the pressure on Mudryk to make himself undroppable in Pochettino’s eyes – starting with Saturday’s trip to Newcastle.

It would be difficult for the west London side to convince Napoli to sell Kvaratskhelia in January, but not impossible. The Georgia international scored twice against Scotland during the international break and while his club form has dropped off from last season, Chelsea are reportedly keen on signing the talented playmaker along with Manchester City, Barcelona, Newcastle and Real Madrid.

The financial side of the deal means it could cost the Blues over £100million to secure his signature and some would question why they would pay out such a fee when they desperately need a striker, as well as having Mudryk on an eight-year contract.

Hearing news of their interest in Kvaratskhelia could simply be a ploy to spark some life into Mudryk, who has divided opinion since arriving at the club 11 months ago.

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The Ukrainian has shown glimpses of the ability that convinced Chelsea to invest a total of £88million in the 22-year-old, scoring against Fulham and Arsenal this season after going 23 games without a goal for the Blues. His direct running and blistering pace means he is a useful asset against tired defenders.

Still, two goals and two assists in 28 appearances is nowhere near what Pochettino would expect from a player of his ability and talent.

The issue is becoming more pressing for the 51-year-old boss, with the impending return of Christopher Nkunku giving him a selection headache. The Frenchman has dropped several hints indicating he is poised to return to the squad against the Magpies after recovering from knee surgery, and Mudryk will be feeling the heat as a result.

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The reality is that Mudryk’s role in the team is not guaranteed. Raheem Sterling and Cole Palmer are performing consistently enough to know their places in the team are safe, while Nicolas Jackson has responded to his manager’s call for more goals with four in his last two matches.

Pochettino could sacrifice a midfielder to make room for Nkunku in the No 10 role to ensure Mudryk isn’t dropped, but the trio of Conor Gallagher, Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo have clicked into gear playing alongside each other. And so the issue of who is going to be the regular player in the wide-left position is becoming a prevalent topic.

Sterling looks to be the most obvious candidate after some stellar displays against Tottenham and Manchester City, while Nkunku is unlikely to sit out for long after spending three months on the sidelines.

It could mean that if Mudryk starts against Newcastle, it may represent his final opportunity to convince Pochettino he is worthy of his faith. After all, Chelsea cannot sign Kvaratshkelia until January at the earliest and Nkunku is lacking match fitness.

There is also a chance he could line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation against Newcastle and move Palmer into the middle, with Mudryk or Sterling shifted onto the right wing.

A dazzling display to put the Toon to the sword would do wonders for his chances, and surely give Pochettino food for thought if he is to continue his pursuit of a new winger in the coming months.

But time may be running out for the ex-Shakhtar man to prove he can be leading player, rather than an expensive squad member on a long contract, for Pochettino this season.

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