Chelsea fielded a team with an average age of 22.8 in Wednesday’s FA Cup fourth-round replay win at Aston Villa. Premier League form has been harder to come by, with the Blues 11th and having already lost ten games this term.
Speaking on Friday, the Blues’ manager was keen to explain that difficulties this season are not because of individual players’ ages. Instead, he feels they are down to the huge number of summer signings and the time it takes players to settle at a new club.
“I am not picking the team because they are young,” said a defiant Pochettino. “I don’t want to be the coach that picks the youngest team in England.
“We are a young team, but we have a good balance. We have players like Thiago Silva, 39, Raheem Sterling, [Christopher] Nkunku, 26, or [Axel] Disasi.
“The problem is not that the players are so young. The problem is that the team is young. With 16 or 17 players that have arrived new from the beginning of the season, you need to build a team.”
Asked whether Chelsea’s balance of youth and experience is optimal, Pochettino admitted: “At the moment, maybe it’s not so good. If not, we could be in another position. It’s obvious.”
By far the oldest player at Chelsea is veteran Silva. After his poor performance in last weekend’s 4-2 loss to Wolves and his wife Belle’s subsequent social media post calling for change at Chelsea, Pochettino dropped Silva for the Villa win.
The Chelsea manager was quizzed as to whether Silva’s recent form, coupled with his age, may see the Brazil centre-back feature in the starting line-up less in the second half of the season.
“Why? Nothing happened,” Pochettino replied. “All the players are in the same position as him. We always assess after every single game the performance of the player and then we take the decision. He is not different from the others.
“I always make my decisions trying to provide good balance to the team. I don’t look at the passport or the age of the player. I think it’s always about quality and how we can get the best balance for the team.
“Benoit [Badiashile] wasn’t available for a long time because he was injured. Disasi was injured, [Trevoh] Chalobah was injured, [Wesley] Fofana was injured. We always try to find the formation and players that can perform and win games.”