Chelsea boss Mauricio Pochettino is facing a dilemma ahead of their London derby with Arsenal next Saturday after watching one of his young players sparkle on international duty. The Blues boss will be watching on keenly as his players enjoy their two-week break with their respective nations, and Noni Madueke has already made a statement of his own with an eye-catching display for England’s Under-21s.
The international break has proved to be useful for Madueke to generate some support amongst the fanbase, and he will be hoping his manager takes notice as well.
The winger bagged a brace in the young Lions’ 9-1 thrashing of Serbia on Thursday night, which included a stunning solo effort in which he beat three players before finding the bottom corner.
As a player that cost £30million to sign from PSV Eindhoven in January, he has been backed to have a bright future in west London and has a contract until 2030 to prove it. But his career so far at Stamford Bridge, with just two goals in 16 appearances, tells another story entirely.
Madueke has featured for just 45 minutes in the Premier League this season and while he has been affected by injury of late, the 21-year-old has been used sparingly by Pochettino when he was match-fit.
He did score a penalty in the 2-1 win over AFC Wimbledon, only to receive a public rebuke after he was pictured out at a Mayfair nightclub while he was injured. And the Argentinian boss wasn’t too pleased at the time, telling him he needed to be more professional.
It is clear. This video, we were talking about that with him. I think it is a thing that we need to avoid,” Pochettino told reporters. “All the players need to know that when we are a player of Chelsea to try to avoid these things. It wasn’t a big issue but we always need to avoid these types of situations.
“I think it is really clear that he needs to avoid it. But he is recovering from the national team and we will see if he is fit and can be involved and selected. But we talk about what you are asking me because it is a thing that the young players need to improve on. Not only him. Many, many players need to be professional and to have respect because of the badge we have here.”
The pair have since made peace after Pochettino looked past the incident, but it seems he still has some work ahead to get back in his manager’s good books.
Chelsea are on a three-game winning streak and given the club’s recent troubles, that is something Pochettino can celebrate. With that in mind, he may be reluctant to disrupt the momentum his players have accumulated through beating Brighton, Fulham and Burnley by keeping the same team where possible.
Of course, his hand may be forced if injuries play a part in his selection choices – and that’s where Madueke can step in.
Cole Palmer has impressed when starting all three of their last matches but the £40m summer signing picked up a knock in the England Under-21 win. If he cannot feature, Madueke will be chomping at the bit to get some minutes under his belt.
What he does have on his side is his impressive performance from last season’s fixture, scoring in the 3-1 defeat at the Emirates when they were coached by Frank Lampard. Pochettino is unlikely to ignore that performance, and Madueke’s recent two-goal heroics, but there may be some residual doubt for him before he can decide to rely on the England starlet again.