Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino has called on the club to sign a set-piece specialist, namedropping West Ham United’s James Ward-Prowse as an example of the benefit.
The Blues have spent an unholy amount of money on new players since Todd Boehly led a 2022 takeover, but Pochettino has a squad struggling to stay in the top half of the Premier League. The Argentine has now identified a free-kick expert as a key component that is lacking.
“We work a lot on set-pieces. We have a group of analysts. After that, it is about the quality of the player, about the takers,” he said ahead of this weekend’s clash with Wolves.
“We don’t have a specialist. Maybe Chilly [Ben Chilwell] is good in the delivery, but we don’t have a specialist after that. “If you want to be good in set-pieces, you need good takers.
“When you have good takers, it is not down to the work. We work similarly, but the problem is to have good takers. Look at West Ham. What changed? The taker is Ward-Prowse. For sure, you can work, like West Ham were working. But now, you add a player like him, you increase the percentage.”
Many players noted for set-piece quality, like Mason Mount, Hakim Ziyech and Marcos Alonso, have left Stamford Bridge in the last 18 months, leaving the squad at a disadvantage through an inability to fully exploit opportunities in dead ball situations.
The player that Pochettino namedropped, Ward-Prowse, is one he previously worked with a decade ago at former club Southampton. The England midfielder is widely recognised as the best free-kick taker in the Premier League and has made a positive impact since joining West Ham last summer.
Ward-Prowse may not be the exact player that Chelsea go for, but Pochettino has made clear that he still considers his expensively assembled squad to be a work in progress.