Chelsea head coach Mauricio Pochettino repeated his call for patience as his inexperienced squad look to find their feet in the Premier League.
The Argentinian takes his side to Crystal Palace on Monday evening searching for a win which would lift the Blues into the top half of the table.
Hopes that the players might finally be ready to live up to the expectation raised by having a £1billion first-team squad were ignited by last Wednesday’s 3-1 victory at Aston Villa in their FA Cup fourth-round replay.
But in the league there has been little cause for optimism, with the most recent outing – last weekend’s 4-2 home defeat to Wolves, which saw angry supporters turn on Pochettino and his team – representing the low point so far of a turbulent campaign.
A win at Selhurst Park against Roy Hodgson’s men would be just their 10th of the season in 24 league games.
Pochettino said his team – on average the youngest in the top flight – will require more time than they have yet been given following the arrival of 12 new faces last summer.
“I’m not picking the team because they are young,” he said. “I don’t want to be the coach that picks the youngest team in England.
“We are a young team. We have a good balance. We have Thiago Silva who is 39, we have Raheem Sterling (29), we have (Christopher) Nkunku (26), and (Axel) Disasi (25). The problem is not that they are young. The problem is that the team is young.
“We had (many) players that arrived new at the beginning of the season. You need to build a team. Always I talk about the team, it’s not about if you have 20 or 19-year-olds. We need to be consistent like a team.
“At the moment we have maybe not so good (balance), because we would be in another position.”
The defeat to Wolves brought the first signs of Chelsea fans’ patience with the former Tottenham manager being tested.
This time tomorrow, it's go time. ⏳ pic.twitter.com/d1ayKrJUCM
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) February 11, 2024
There was audible discontent aimed at Pochettino directly, while players were also booed and supporters sang the name of former owner Roman Abramovich.
The 51-year-old is not the only one under scrutiny, with Palace manager Hodgson also in the spotlight as his side sink down the table with just two wins in their last 12 games, but Pochettino has backed the 76-year-old to handle the pressure.
“It’s part of the game, it’s football,” the Blues boss said. “He has the experience to manage every situation. It’ll be good to see him, for sure we’re going to share a nice time together.
“We are not interested to talk about things that happen around us.”